The main theme that seems to run through the readings for Mass today, is that it’s not easy to do God’s will. If we genuinely love God and do our best to follow in Jesus’s footsteps, then we can expect to suffer for it. No one wants to suffer though. The prophet Jeremiah in the first reading for Mass today said, “You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped.” He felt like he was gullible enough to follow along with what God wanted from him, but he didn’t realize until it was too late, that he would suffer so much because of it.
This is what happened to the prophet Jeremiah when he obeyed God:
“All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message; the word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day.”
Jeremiah tried to get out of the suffering though, by saying to himself: “I will not mention him, I will speak his name no more.” But, he wasn’t very successful at doing that. Jeremiah wrote, “But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones.”
What a beautiful verse this is! “… it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones.” This is the fire of the Holy Spirit. It is the same ember of love that we hold in our own hearts too, if we remain in a state of grace in God’s eyes. The fire of the Holy Spirit takes on a life of its own and just can’t remain within us. It can’t help but come out. Once you have caught that fire – it possesses you, as its own. You are no longer entirely your own person, because God Himself came and dwelled within you. You invited Him into your life of your own free will.
This happens with demonic possession too. The demons are often ‘invited in’ to a person’s life because they dabbled in the occult, or were overly curious about things that are not of God. People often do not realize the devil ‘duped them’ into allowing him entry into their lives. They no longer are their own person either, because the devil came and dwelled within them.
Jesus recognized the devil’s temptation in Peter’s words in today’s gospel, when Peter said, “God forbid Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” Jesus immediately deflected the devil’s temptation to abandon his mission and would not entertain the thought for even an instant. He immediately responded to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.”
Nature abhors a vacuum. Something will enter a person’s heart, it will not remain empty. But, it’s our choice, what we allow into our hearts. We are not the helpless victims of circumstances beyond our control. Even in the most dire of circumstances, we still have a choice. Saint Maximilian Kolby chose to love, instead of hate, while living in a concentration camp. He gave his life for another man, who would have left behind a wife and children when he died.
Saint Maximilian Kolby lived out the words in the second reading for mass, “to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.” But, he also followed in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus too:
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life?”
So much evil exists in the world because of selfishness and a lack of belief in the existence of the devil. Many people do not believe in God or that eternal life exists, or that there is eternal consequences for those who intentionally harm other human beings. This is something that is not within our control. Evil exists, because man was given free will. Jesus respects our free will and does not try to control it, because in the end, our everyday choices and actions will prove whether we freely chose to love the Lord, by loving other people – or not. The gospel ends by saying:
“For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”
We can’t even begin to picture eternal life, but our earthly lives will be over in an instant against the backdrop of time. Eternity is forever, and our ability to enter heaven is worth more than anything else that we could possibly do with our lives. We are only temporarily here on earth, and are called to continue following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Heaven is our true home and there is nothing on earth that is worth forfeiting eternal joy.
Sunday Mass Readings:
Jeremiah 20: 7-9 / Psalm 63 / Romans 12: 1-2 / Matthew 16: 21-27