When we deepen our vocation as people of God through prayer in a sense it is like a seduction.
‘You have seduced me Lord and I have allowed myself to be seduced!’ the Prophet Jeremiah cries out.
I hear echoes of St Augustine who’s feast we celebrated on Friday. ‘You have made us for yourself O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you’.
We can try and run away from it or dismiss it or listen to opposing voices inside and outside of us, but God continues to pull us ever closer through strings of love where ultimately our true peace and freedom lies in relationship and communion with him. However, it is not always a comfortable place. Suffering, doubt, longings of every kind and failure are powerful adversaries.
Jeremiah doesn’t want to suffer ridicule and rejection by his people, but he can’t help himself, he has this fire burning in his heart, imprisoned in his bones. He must speak out a message the people do not want to hear because God has commissioned him, compelled him.
I find this heroic. Conviction born from the heat of the day, from the very depth of his being.
Many people languishing in jails today for expressing their religious and political beliefs come under this. We have seen how political or religious dissidents released from jail show no signs of “conversion” and continue the struggle for human dignity. It is something which those who see life in terms of material comfort and power simply cannot understand.
I was struck by a prophetic voice in the Catholic news outlet ‘Crux’ yesterday from Archbishop Paglia president of the Pontifical Academy for life pointing to the global crisis caused by the COVID-19. He believes the pandemic was “a sort of slap” that awoke a society too confident in its technological prowess, and too little aware of people’s dependence on one another.
“We went to the moon, we are going to Mars, but it took that invisible molecule to bring us all to our knees, both people and institutions,” he said, adding that the sense of fragility has been a reminder “of the interconnectedness of us all. No one is an island.”
“What each of us do always impacts others,” he said. “If we put on masks, we put them on not just to defend our lives, but also to defend others.”
Paglia said the pandemic also offers an opportunity to focus on models of development that are more inclusive and attentive to inequalities, as opposed to “a development that is economically sick.”
I cannot see that being a popular message for authoritarian leaders or those who just want to maintain the status quo because I am OK thank you very much.
Just as people do not want to hear a message that undermines their power base, Peter in today’s Gospel from Matthew 16:21-27 did not want to hear Jesus talk about suffering and death at the hands of the chief priests and elders. He wanted the glory and status of being a close follower of Jesus without the cross. Jesus reacts strongly because he too ultimately didn’t want to suffer an ignominious fate but he knows that if he is to continue proclaiming the kingdom of God’s love and mercy he is called to put his life on the line. His destiny as the Servant King was to continue his journey towards Jerusalem no matter the consequences.
Jesus is asking each one of us to dedicate our lives in totally loving and serving others even if, at times, this involves misunderstanding, ridicule, pain and even death itself.
In relationship with Christ from that depth of our being to stand up for the voiceless, to speak when we need to and to be silent when we need to. To be prepared to face the criticism and attacks that may come and do come.
For anyone who wants to save their life will lose it but anyone who loses their life for my sake will find it.
Listen to ‘We are Connected’ from ‘Awesome God’.
May we continue to lift our hearts in prayer for our Muslim brothers and sisters in Christchurch at this time given the court sentencing in these recent days.