22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (2017)

When a woman carries a baby for nine months, and then the baby dies in her arms after birth, do you think she feels betrayed by God?  When parents send their children to school, and they are snatched by the hands of death before they get a chance to fall in love, finish school and have families of their own, do you think those parents feel betrayed by God?  Have you ever felt as if your efforts were in vain, and questioned if you were on the right path, or if you were making a difference?  Yes, I think we can all understand Jeremiah’s disillusionment and anger.  Although I have never used the words, “you duped me, O Lord”, I have often found myself saying internally, “Lord, I thought you loved me! Why did you let that happen?”  God’s ways are not our ways, and we can’t always see the big picture, but somehow that doesn’t bring much comfort when we are hurting.  Jeremiah is so confident in his relationship with God that he doesn’t hold back.  Jeremiah is angry, disillusioned and blames God for his suffering, as most of us do when something bad happens in our lives, but rather than bringing the pain to God in prayer, we have the tendency to withdraw from prayer and from the church.  God knows our hearts, knows our pains, but there is healing that happens when we speak our pain, feel our anguish and have our moment of crying.  After that, we can get back to trusting that God ultimately won’t let us fail, and if we fall, we will fall into God’s arms where we would be lifted back up.  Jesus said, “follow me”.  This invitation doesn’t include a promise of a pain-free, stress-free and problem-free life.  This invitation is to give up something you hold precious in order to live more fully in divine light.  In this week’s Gospel, Peter’s reaction is understandable.  He is like all of us, just holding on to a particular idea of who Jesus Christ is, and trying to protect someone he holds dear.  Again, the invitation from Jesus is, “follow me”.  Following Christ will involve taking up your cross, no longer thinking of oneself, no longer being preoccupied with material things, and no longer worrying about saving just your physical body.  It doesn’t just involve the inevitable suffering in some form, but also includes the grace of a life journey sustained and nourished by the presence of the Lord.  Responding to God’s call could lead to open doors, personal growth, renewal and important relationships, but other times, not fully understanding God’s plan, we end up lamenting like Jeremiah, feeling confused, deceived and abandoned.  We must believe that God knows what we need; we must let go, trust God, pick up our cross and follow in faith.  This is the condition of true discipleship. 

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