All of our Scripture readings for today speak to us about how we as Christians are to follow God’s ways and not those of the world. In our first reading from Jeremiah, as much as the prophet wants to resist proclaiming God’s Word, because it brings him "derision and reproach," he cannot resist, and God’s Word is proclaimed.
In our second reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans, Paul exhorts his fellow Christians to "not conform yourself to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God…"
In our Gospel reading from Matthew, Jesus predicts His own Passion and Resurrection, but Peter will have none of it. Just after he confesses that Jesus is the Messiah, Peter shows that he does not understand what it means to be the Messiah. For him, the Messiah is not to undergo any suffering or what seems to be defeat at all. And so Jesus has to tell him, "Get behind me, Satan! You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."
Then Jesus continues with a description of the conditions of discipleship: "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." Talk about being counter-cultural! Deny ourselves?! The wisdom of the world tells us to indulge every desire. Take up our crosses?! Our society usually runs away from pain at all costs. Follow Jesus?! The world often considers Jesus to be a nice man who had no understanding of the real world.
But if we believe with Peter that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, we must be willing to accept the wisdom of the Gospel, and not the wisdom of the world. The more we do that, the more we will see for ourselves that it is the wisdom of the Gospel that is most in touch with reality, and that it is truly life-giving. May we take the risk, and follow Jesus so we can "come after" Him and return to the Father.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P. is pastor of St. Mary’s parish, Fairfield, Alabama.