Scripture Reflection - September 3, 2017

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jer. 20:7-9; Ps: 2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9; Rom. 12:1-2; Mt. 16:21-27 There is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.  Jer.20:9

Speaking on behalf of God does not always win you influence with others, as the prophet Jeremiah found out.  In today’s Old Testament reading, he complains of the ill treatment he suffered after he had accepted the task of preaching God’s Truth.

Perhaps there were times when you may have felt as Jeremiah did or experienced what he talks about.  Did you ever face criticism or rejection for speaking the truth or for questioning a popularly held belief?  If you have, then Jeremiah may be good role model for you.

He prefigures all those people throughout history and in our own day as well who reflected on God’s Word in light of events taking place around them and, as a result, felt called to speak out. They challenged popular culture and risked speaking the Truth in spite of the consequences they knew they would experience.

 Jeremiah, the reluctant prophet, accepted God’s call to speak on behalf of God, a decision which proved to be very unpopular with his audience. He allowed God to work through him and as a result, had to face derision and reproach, not what he had expected when he started out. Yet in spite of all he suffered, the Word of God proved to be a powerful force, a burning fire, and he was compelled to speak it.

Like Jeremiah, we are asked to listen for God’s voice amidst the chaos, confusion, and misinformation often swirling around us and discover where the Truth lies.  We are called, as he was, to speak that Truth as it applies to our contemporary circumstances, regardless of the the consequences. 

In the second reading, Paul asks the Romans to reject the false values of the time, and remain faithful to Christ no matter the cost. He calls them and us to be transformed, to stand up for truth, to take sides on behalf of God. 

Given the current climate in our world and country, Paul’s words can inspire us to advocate for those who suffer any form of persecution or discrimination in our own country or beyond. If we do that, then, like Jeremiah, we shall experience God’s Word as a fire burning inside us, giving us the courage to endure whatever it takes in order to make truth known.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is the ultimate example of discerning and responding to God’s will. He knows Jerusalem is where He is meant to go so that the passion, death, resurrection cycle may be complete. When he shares this with his disciples, Peter finds His words difficult and does what any of us might do on hearing bad news from one we love. He denies it will happen.

Jesus rebukes him, “You are thinking not as God does but as human beings do”, he says and offers a challenge, the guiding principal of what it takes to be a disciple: “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.”

Jesus invites the disciples, and us, to follow him in the way of truth and promote the will of God which is often in conflict with the popular culture.  Jesus asks us to align our thinking and actions with his, to risk our lives rather than lose our souls, to be willing to lose all that we value and find so much more.

Take time today to reflect on what you might lose if you risk becoming a modern- day prophet and challenge some of the beliefs or alternate facts of our popular culture? What might you gain?

Let us pray:

Loving God give us the courage always to seek and speak the truth and so serve as prophets in our troubled world.  As we prepare to celebrate Labor Day on Monday, we ask that you bless all laborers and the prophets who advocate on their behalf for just wages and humane working conditions. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.                       

Sister Michaela Connolly, O.P.

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