Both readings bring us face to face with some basic challenges.
Gideon puts his concern right out there: "For now the Lord has abandoned us." The Midianites are about to annihilatethe Israelites. The fact that God boughtthem through all the trials and ordeals in Egypt seems to mean nothingnow. And the solution of having Gideonlead the Israelites to conquer the Midianites doesn’t make too much sense. "My family is the lowest and I amthe most insignificant." Not toopromising! God reassures him, however,that all will work out. "Be calm, do not fear. You will not die" in the upcomingstruggle. The challenge is for him torealize and accept that he is not alone.
In the gospel we find Peter seeking recognition: We havegiven up everything and followed you. What’s in it for us?" Jesusis very honest in His reply: "Foreverything that you have given up, you will receive a hundred times more." Peter is looking ahead. Reality, however, will settle in as thingscontinue to unfold day by day. Jesus,the popular one, irritates the Jewish hierarchy. Ever so slowly yet convincingly the truthbegins to dawn on the Apostles that Jesus is the suffering servant foretold byIsaiah (Chapter 53). And then, comes theplea, "Take up your cross and come followme." Peter will have to endure a real humblingpurgation. What happened in thecourtyard of the High Priest at the trial of Jesus—his denial of anyassociation with Jesus—would lead to an outburst of tears as he realize whathe had done. That scene evidently neverleft his memory. Later he would ask thathis own death on a cross be such he would be hung upside down.
Can you and I resonate with Gideon and Peter? To honestly be myself is of greatimportance. It brings peace. To wander through life envying others is tofail to live. Giving up things, lettinggo of things is not to contradict what has been given to us. It has to do with making choices as to how I will use my gifts andtalents. And no matter what vocation inlife we choose, there is the ongoing challenge to let nothing get in the way ofmy loving God, my brothers and sisters, and myself.
Fr. Peter Berendt, CP, is on the retreat team at Holy Name Retreat Center in Houston, Texas.