The Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
Jeremiah 20:7-9 + Romans 12:1-2 + Matthew 16:21-27
August 30, 2020
You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed.
The human person must stand solidly against death. This is the truth that Peter denies in the Gospel passage we hear this Sunday. This is the truth that the prophet Jeremiah wanted to avoid for so long.
Jeremiah had begun his role as a prophet during easy times, during the reign of a king who stood up for goodness, and who inspired others to follow him in the way of goodness. Only years later, when a corrupt man became the king of Judah, did Jeremiah begin to realize that God had called him to be a prophet for the sake of a decaying society. He was to speak out against the evil which so many people had made their own. Yet he was initially unwilling. Jeremiah could only cry, “You duped me, Lord, and I let myself be duped.” But we can be sure that God saw things differently.
Jeremiah’s frustration was similar to the frustration of Peter in the Gospel. We heard last weekend how, after Peter confessed his faith in Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus handed over to him the keys to the kingdom of Heaven. It’s easy to see how confusing Jesus’ next words to Peter must have seemed.
Jesus seemed to have given Peter the power to make all things right with the world. But then Jesus tells Peter that he, the Messiah, would have to suffer at the hands of world leaders. What kind of power was this that Peter had been given? Not much, apparently. We can be sure, though, that Jesus saw things differently.
Suffering was brought into this world by sin. The only real way to deal with it, and so pass from this world to Heaven, is to stand solid like a rock against it. This may mean disciplining one’s children more strictly than other parents. This may mean patiently and lovingly relating to one’s spouse. This may mean allowing oneself to be rejected by a group of peers whenever their attitudes or actions are wrong.
St. Paul tells us that our faith demands that we act. He says to the Romans in Sunday’s Second Reading: offer your bodies as a living sacrifice; do not conform yourselves to this age. This may mean something as simple as praying before meals that we eat in public. Or this may mean something as risky as arguing—charitably—with someone who does not respect the dignity of others.
Once we have acted, the world must respond to our expression of faith. Sometimes the response of the world is nothing more than apathy, sometimes curiosity, sometimes anger. Regardless, we must act. For the truth of our faith continues to burn within a conscience that is not yet dead, as in the soul of Jeremiah. That sense of burning truth occurs through the power of the Holy Spirit. And as the life of the Holy Spirit grows within us, we ourselves begin to see things a little differently.