Sunday reflection by Very Reverend Stephen E. Salocks, Rector of Saint John's Seminary - August 30, 2020
Today, on the Twenty-Second Sunday of the Year, the Mass begins with the Church’s prayer that the God of might, the giver of every good gift, might put into our hearts the love of His name, nurture in us what is good and, by His watchful care, keep safe what He has nurtured. When we turn to the readings proclaimed, we know and believe that God was always about nurturing and keeping safe what was good in Jeremiah, Peter, and Paul – even in difficult times. Our Lord does the same for us!
The prophet Jeremiah was called by God, despite his reluctance – telling God, “I am too young.” God nonetheless called Jeremiah and sent him to speak the truth in God’s name. Few prophets suffered as much as Jeremiah did for carrying out God’s command. The temptation to stop speaking for God and about God was overwhelming. Today’s first reading tells us that, the hurt and fear he might have been feeling, Jeremiah was compelled to continue loving God deeply and live out his vocation faithfully despite the consequences. God was keeping safe what he nurtured in Jeremiah.
When we come to the Gospel, we remember that it was just last week that we heard Peter confess Jesus as the Messiah and Jesus, after praising the gift of God’s revelation to Peter, declared Peter to be the foundation upon which Jesus would build his Church. Today, as Jesus and his disciples make their way to Jerusalem, our Lord prepares them for what awaits them in Jerusalem. The mission of the Messiah includes suffering and death. Peter, who had just confessed Jesus as the Messiah, struggles to understand that to be Jesus’ disciple means following the Lord in his suffering and sacrifice. The one who was called a rock on which the Church would be built now is in danger of becoming a stumbling block.
While it sounds harsh, Jesus’ telling Peter to “get behind” him is a challenge to get back to the business of being a disciple – that is, to follow Jesus, even to the cross. Jesus loved Peter and, even with his challenging words, Jesus is not giving up on his disciple.
Peter eventually learned and accepted this truth, and even gave his own life witnessing to Jesus as crucified and risen. Peter stands for all of us. We want to rely on the same challenging love of our Lord. When we find the going difficult and when we experience resistance to our living out our lives of discipleship, we want to make sure to pray and continue to listen to Jesus call us to get back into the business of following Him.
Saint Paul reinforces the teaching of today’s scriptures when he tells the Romans and us, “Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” We are called to imitate Christ by offering our bodies as living sacrifices, and so follow God’s will.
Today, aware that our souls are always thirsting for the Lord, our God, we pray that our loving and faithful God, whose Son showed us the way to God, will guide us as we seek to deny what the world offers, and to follow the example of His Son – joyfully giving and receiving in a way that benefits ourselves and all in the Christian community, so that all might have life and have it abundantly.