Pope Francis celebrates a Mass for peace and for the reconciliation of North and South Korea at Myongdong Cathedral in Seoul, South Korea, Aug. 18. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Peace comes with submitting to God

  • August 21, 2014

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) Aug. 31 (Jeremiah 20:7-9; Psalm 63; Romans 12:1-2; Matthew 16:21-27) 

We can perhaps sympathize with Jeremiah. He did not ask for the calling of a prophet — in fact, he was dragged kicking and screaming into his role as God’s mouthpiece. 

From the very beginning, he had tried to evade the call by protesting that he was too young and was not a good speaker. God was adamant: Jeremiah had been marked out for this mission before he even came to be and if God called him then God would empower him. 

Jeremiah knew what he was in for. As with most prophets, his job would be to tell people — especially those in authority — what they did not want to hear. The message was simple: everything was not all right. The nation was corrupt with iniquity and injustice. Rather than playing power politics to deal with the Babylonian threat, they should trust in God and return to the path of righteousness. 

This message was a threat to those in power and they treated Jeremiah accordingly — he was arrested, persecuted and under constant threat of death. No wonder he wanted to quit! He protested that God had tricked and seduced him and that he would no longer speak of God at all. This was not to be. Try as he might, he could not keep silent — the divine message burned within him and would give him no peace. He had to proclaim God’s message for that was the purpose for which he was born. 

This is why the great prophets and reformers throughout the ages have persisted in their mission: they had to. To be silent may have made things easier and more comfortable for them and even brought material benefits. But the words burned within them — they had to speak. 

When we stand mute before injustice, bigotry, hatred, inequality, hypocrisy and oppression we give tacit consent for them to continue. There will always be those who are chosen to challenge the status quo in big ways. But all of us are charged by God to witness to truth, decency, justice and compassion. When we fail to do so, a portion of our inner self withers and dies. When we rise to the occasion the image of God within us burns brightly for all to see. We will also have a sense of peace and completeness because we have lived up to our divine calling. 

Paul would have agreed — and he would have pointed to his insistence on “spiritual worship” as an example. What we do with our bodies — that is, speech, thoughts and actions — is an expression of our relationship with God. When our bodies are used in selfish or worthless pursuits we are not engaged in a worshipful life regardless of how ‘religious’ we might consider ourselves to be. A life spent in loving service and witness to justice, truth and mercy is pleasing to God and is the deepest form of grateful worship. 

Peter’s fall from grace was very sudden and swift. Jesus had just finished praising and honouring Peter for proclaiming him as the Messiah and Son of the Living God. Now Jesus turned on him and called him Satan — he was acting the role of the tempter and adversary by trying to deflect Jesus from his divine mission. Peter had fallen back into human ways of thinking that were driven by the powerful fear of pain, suffering and death. Life — and a safe, comfortable one at that — had to be preserved at all costs. 

He asked Jesus not to continue on his fateful journey to Jerusalem. This was an attractive temptation and Jesus recognized it as such — that is why he turned on Peter in anger. Right then and there he had to commit himself again to his mission. Jesus gave a warning to us all — when we sacrifice who we are and compromise our spiritual and moral ideals for the sake of safety, comfort or profit in a sense we have lost our soul by alienation from our deepest and truest self. 

Each day we are called to renew our ideals and goals and give our heart and energy to what we hold dear. When we are faithful to this practice we will be capable of great things but, more importantly, we will be more in harmony with God. 

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