In last week’s gospel, we saw Peter blurt out the truth. When Jesus asked, “Who do people say that I am?” he got logical and worldly responses, like “some say you are Isaiah and others a prophet.” He then asked, “Who do you say that I am?” And Peter blurted out the truth: You are the Christ, the anointed one, the one that everyone’s been waiting for. And the next thing Jesus says to him is, “You are the Rock and upon this Rock I will build my church.”
In this week’s gospel, we see that Peter can’t maintain for very long. This is the second part of the story we began last week. Jesus tells his disciples what the rest of his Earthly ministry will look like. He will go to Jerusalem, and he will be killed, and on the third day he will rise from the dead. But Peter cannot handle that. He says “no such thing shall ever happen to you.” And Jesus rebukes Peter, because Peter has fallen into the trap of thinking as the world thinks. He says, “You are not thinking as God does, but as human beings do.”
In the first half of our story which we heard last week, we see what Peter says when he is open to supernatural truth. And in the second half of our story, which we hear today, we see what happens when we remain limited to natural, or human, truth. Last week, Peter blurted out the truth, and perhaps he felt what Jeremiah said in today’s Old Testament reading. That it becomes like a fire burning in our heart, imprisoned in our bones; we grow weary holding it in and we cannot endure it. A supernatural truth is something that is true but beyond our human, or natural, ability to comprehend. That doesn’t make it less true; rather, it opens us to deeper truths that we cannot work to by our own power. It’s a gift of truth. Peter was given the gift of recognizing that Jesus is the Messiah. That’s a radical truth.
But in the second half of the story, which we read today, Peter seems to have lost his grip on that radical truth, and he descends to the human realm which cannot accept that God must die on the Cross. The supernatural gift of radical truth comes to us from God, and our responsibility is to hold on to that truth and to hold on to that openness. We must have that openness if we are to hear and to follow the instructions that Jesus gives his disciples: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Since he just told his disciples where he was going – to Jerusalem to suffer and be killed – then those of us who choose to follow him must understand the cost of this radical truth and radical obedience.
Saint Paul urges the Romans in his letter today not to conform themselves to this age but to be transformed by the renewal of their minds so that they may discern what is the will of God. That was the call in the first century, and it is our call today in the 21st century.
Our age has turned its back on the truths of God. Our age says that we should seek pleasure and avoid pain. Our age says that this life is all there is. Our age says that will and power are the way to get ahead. Our age says win at all cost.
But as the readings today make clear, we must obey Jesus and stop thinking as the world thinks. In faith, we must see through the lies of the world and obey the truths of God. The truth is that this life is a brief moment in our eternal lives. One of the most powerful sentences given by Sister Dee Dee who spoke last week at the convention was that she was not just pro-life but pro eternal life. As Christians we are pro-life and pro eternal life. We know that spiritual death is much worse than physical death. That’s a radical truth that the world rejects. That’s a radical truth that we can’t hold in any more than Jeremiah could hold in his message. That’s a radical truth that means suffering for those who dare to express it in public.
The truth is that power and will are the opposite of what God wants. Just be reminded of the Beatitudes: the meek shall inherit the earth. Jesus describes himself as meek and humble of heart. Our Lady describes herself as the handmaid of the Lord. St. John the Baptist tells his disciples that he must decrease so that Jesus may increase. As Christians, we know that all power comes from God and must be used according to His justice. As Christians we know that the ends do not justify the means. As Christians we know that Justice will be done at the End of the Age when Jesus comes with his angels. That’s a radical truth that the world rejects.
But our lives should conform to the radical truth of God, not the rationalized and compromised truths of the present age. So what can we do? As Father mentioned in his stewardship talk last week, we can commit to prayer. It’s hard to read three pages of the gospels without finding that Jesus went off to pray by himself. We can follow that radical example in our own lives today.
We can spend time in spiritual reading. We have great models and teachers of the faith in the Saints and Doctors of the church.
We can spend time in community. Here we are fighting heat and rain to come to Mass in person. Fighting the fear of the Coronavirus, we might even dare shake hands or even give a hug. That is radical trust, which the world has temporarily lost.
We can share that faith that is bursting out of us. Do our spouses, children, our friends see how much we love our Lord? What can I do that’s radical to show them and everyone what the good news looks like?
Because we should be bold enough to blurt out the truth as Peter did. When God gives us the fullness of Truth, we should not try to manage it so that it conforms to the world, we should share it boldly like Peter.
When we are filled with the love and truth of Our Lord, it should be too strong for us, it was for the Prophet Jeremiah. It should be like a fire burning in our hearts. We should be unable to keep it in.
And we should do our part to cultivate that courage and that openness to what God wants to say to us and what he wants us to say. And we do that through our commitment to prayer, to spiritual reading, and to participation in the church’s liturgical life and our church family community.
Let us, in the words of Saint Paul, offer our bodies, our very selves, as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.