First reading: Jer. 20:7–9
You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed. All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me.
Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message; the word of the LORD has brought me derision and reproach all the day.
I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.
Second reading: Rom. 12:1–2
I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to 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, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.
Gospel: Mt. 16:21–27
Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”
In other words
by Fr. Emil Lim, SVD (Catholic Trade Manila)
I wonder how Jesus felt as he contemplated the impending suffering and death he had to face in Jerusalem. Is it like entering the hospital knowing that it might be one’s last trip? We immediately brush away such a morbid thought as Peter did in today’s Gospel. We understand Peter for being just a concerned friend ready to comfort even with a somewhat toxic positivity. But not Jesus. He looked at the meaning behind the fact. And is it not what our readings are all about: meaning? Meaning gives reason to what may look like an unreasonable decision or action.
The prophet Jeremiah in the first reading argued with himself why he had to go out, shout, and preach the “word of the Lord” when all it brought him were reproaches and derisions. He found the reason in these striking words: “You seduced me, Lord, and I let myself be seduced.” The preacher Jeremiah concludes: “I grow weary holding back, I cannot!” I pray that all servants of the Word could say the same.
Jesus tried to prepare the disciples as one dying parent prepares his children for the inevitable. Peter and the other disciples were not prepared to accept because they had not yet understood that it was all God’s doing. “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” There is a saying: the enemy of the best is the good. That is when our good intentions and plans can be obstacles to God’s best plan. Can we trust God as Jesus trusted the Father? Our fiat (Your will be done) can really come in handy as we embrace God’s will.
The disciples had to learn the hard way Jesus’ lesson of letting go: risk it for a higher gain. We apply this principle when we gamble or invest in business. We understand that there is always a cost and a giveaway to anything valuable. But only those who figure that what is at stake is eternal gain will be less attached to lesser things of the world.
Only later on, when they grasped what Jesus meant, armed with the sure and certain hope of the resurrection, that the disciples would live and die by Jesus’ battle cry: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Many soldiers and citizens have valiantly fought wars for earthly causes upon the prodding of their leaders. Would we as Christian soldiers expect less when trying to win heaven?