Last week Peter was called the rock upon whom the Church would be built, this week; in a passage from Matthew’s Gospel which immediately follows the one we heard last week; Jesus tells Peter to get behind him as he is being influenced by Satan. How can this be? Peter was seeing things as man sees them, he had just had confirmation that Jesus was the Messiah; the One who would save the Jewish people. His vision, his hopes were that the Jewish people would rule their own land again and be freed from the tyranny of the Romans. But that was not God’s way. God does not want to conquer the world through the power of violence; God’s vision is to conquer the world by love.
When Jesus died on the cross, it was a violent death, but it was not a victory for violence. Jesus freely offered his life for every one of our lives. This was an ultimate act of love. We know that Jesus could have avoided death if it had been the will of the Father. During His trial, Jesus told Pilate “…if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent me being surrendered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this kind.” At the time of today’s Gospel Peter did not understand; he had not received the Holy Spirit at that time, therefore he was unable to comprehend that Jesus had to die to save us. Jesus then tells the disciples that all of his followers must renounce themselves and take up their own cross.
Every one of us has our own cross to bear. For some it may be illness or a disability, others it may be grief, for some it is poverty, others again may have to endure martyrdom. Whatever cross we have, we are asked to endure it in a way that helps us stay close to Jesus. In his letter to the Romans St Paul urges us not to model our behaviours on the world around us.
As Christians we live in the world but are encouraged not to be of the world. Living in a way that is not of the world is another way of carrying our cross; it sets us apart. St Paul encourages us to let our behaviour change be modelled on our new understanding; this will help us to discover the will of God.
In our first reading today, the prophet Jeremiah find himself in mental turmoil. He has followed the will of God and finds he has become a laughingstock and ridiculed by others. He is struggling to bear his cross and tries not to think about God anymore; but the more he does this the more God pulls at him drawing him back. As a result of this he feels he has been smitten by a deep longing to be closer to God again. In some ways Jeremiah and Peter are very similar. They are real human examples for us to emulate. Sure, they got things wrong at times, but so do we. They both loved God and served God by taking God’s word to God’s people.
There are times in life when it is difficult to follow Jesus. These are the times when we need the mutual support of friends and family; asking them to become prayer warriors on our behalf. When we are asked to pray for someone, we need to do so as soon as possible, otherwise the world gets in the way. Remember St Paul urges us not to model our behaviour on the world around us. The prince of this world has no love for Jesus, he is our enemy.
The more I develop in my ministry as a deacon, the more people I find I need to pray for. While I remember most of the people I am asked to pray for or who I offer to pray for, there are times when I worry that I may have forgotten someone. So, I now list these intentions in a notebook so that I remember these people in my prayers.
None of us fully know the cross that those around us are carrying. This is why we should always do our best to love those around us; even if they think they are unlovable or reject our attempts to love them. Earlier this week, news broke of the death of Sergeant Graham Saville, who was a policeman, who when he saw a man in distress on a railway track went to try and comfort him. Tragically Graham was struck by a train while he was doing this. The men and women who serve our communities by protecting the vulnerable, moving towards danger while everyone else moves away in the opposite direction, are people with an inner strength; whose first thought is to do something when others are in danger. Our thanks go out to these brave men and women who have lost one of their own this week and our prayers go to Graham’s family.
No greater love a man can show that he gives up his life to save another.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
CCC 618: Christ calls his disciples to take up the Cross and follow him
CCC 555, 1460, 2100: the Cross as the way to Christ’s glory
CCC 2015: way to perfection by way of the Cross
CCC 2427: carrying our cross in daily life
Please keep in your prayers this week
- Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
- All those struggling to feed their families at this time.
- Those working to help others who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
- Those discerning a vocation.
- Those returning to school after the summer holidays.
- Those who may have been disappointed by their exam results that they can navigate the next stage in their education clearly