I think we would all agree that these are challenging times. We all know about the pandemic and that, by itself, would be bad enough. But on top of that, we have wildfires raging across the West, hurricanes hitting the South, millions unemployed and facing eviction and foreclosure, businesses struggling to survive, mistreatment of people of color and riots and violence in our streets. We could easily lose hope.
That’s why we are lucky to be people of faith – because we know and believe that even in these challenging times God is in control. Our job is pretty straightforward: listen to God and do God’s will. At the same time, knowing and believing doesn’t make it easy. We see that in the readings today.
In the first reading, the Prophet Jeremiah is frustrated with his job. He tells God, “God you tricked me into being your prophet and now no one likes me – everyone mocks me.” He wants to quit! He wants an easy job. But as soon as he tries, God rekindles the flame in his heart and he goes right back to spreading the message that got him frustrated in the first place. He says he can’t hold it in.
In the Gospel today, Jesus tells his disciples that he must suffer and die at the hands of the leaders of the temple. Peter pulls him aside and says in effect, “Jesus, you shouldn’t be saying that. That just can’t happen to you.” Jesus tells Peter, my fate is not up to me or you – I have to do my Father’s will. He then goes on to say to Peter: “You are not thinking as God does, but as human beings do.” Jesus goes on to explain to his disciples, that following Him and doing God’s will is not always going to be easy. Just like Jeremiah discovered, Jesus says doing God’s will requires sacrifice.
So what does that mean for our world today? Where are we headed? More importantly, what can we do to change where we are? Our second reading helps us answer those questions. In that reading St. Paul urges us, as brothers and sisters that you “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice.” St. Paul does not literally mean a mortal sacrifice – what he means is that each day we look for ways to put aside our personal desires and preferences and open our hearts and minds to what Jesus is calling so:“...that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Notice also that St. Paul’s invitation in that first reading is to all of us. His reference is plural. We aren’t being asked to do it alone. But we do have to do it together. The step to do that is pretty straightforward, but not necessarily easy, as Jeremiah found. It takes courage.
Matthew Kelly, in his book “I Heard God Laugh,” says we need to ask: “God, what do you think I should do?” If we all asked that question and listened to God, our challenges would not seem so, well, challenging!