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(Part 49)


August 31, 2014

Today’s readings:
Jeremiah 20:7-9
Psalm 63:2-9
Romans 12:1-2
Matthew 16:21-27

We are called to be like Christ. For that, we need to put on God’s mind, which is totally different from that of the world. Our minds need to be renewed. “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom 12:2a). What happens when we do so? We are able to “discern what is the will of God” (Rom 12:2b). And that leads us to “what is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Rom 12:2c).

The human mind that is not renewed is of course very different from the mind of God. The human mind is worldly. And since the whole world is under the dominion of the evil one, then the human mind is easily influenced by Satan. Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” (Mt 16:23).

How does God think? What does God want of us? Paul, with his renewed mind, tells us, “I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.” (Rom 12:1). What is good and pleasing and perfect? What is holy and pleasing to God? It is to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice.

Now sacrifice denotes pain and suffering. Related to Jesus, who is the sacrificial lamb, it means the cross. “From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” (Mt 16:21). Since we are to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, then that is the same call to us. Jesus says to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mt 16:24).

But how does Peter react to what Jesus said? Well, how do we react to what Jesus says to us still today? Peter “began to rebuke him, ‘God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.’” (Mt 16:22). We too do not like to deny ourselves and take up our cross. We prefer comfort, convenience, power, position, personal preference, being self-referential. We think that is the best way for us. Jesus tells us it is not so. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mt 16:25).

What is God’s call? What is God’s will for us? We are to be saints, martyrs and warriors. We become such by denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following Jesus.

We become saints as we deny ourselves, to become unlike the world, and so are set apart, to be holy as God is holy. We become saints by taking up the cross, as we die to self, giving up everything for the sake of the Kingdom. We become saints as we follow Jesus, who is our model for holiness and total obedience to the Father’s will.

We become martyrs as we deny self, not thinking of our comfort, always ready to witness to Jesus, in or out of season. We become martyrs as we take up our cross, willing to be ridiculed, opposed, oppressed and persecuted as we proclaim Christ. We become martyrs as we follow Jesus, who spent himself proclaiming the Kingdom and who died a shameful and cruel death on the cross.

We become warriors as we deny ourselves, engaging in spiritual warfare, with all its difficulties, trials and suffering. We become warriors as we take up the cross, which is the banner under which we fight. We become warriors as we follow Jesus, our Commander-in-Chief, all the way, sharing in the victory that he has already won over the enemy.

Specifically, what are we to do?

First, we earnestly seek God. “O God, you are my God--it is you I seek! For you my body yearns; for you my soul thirsts, in a land parched, lifeless, and without water.” (Ps 63:2). God is our all. We are nothing with God. We must have God, and we must put on God’s mind.

Second, on finding God, we fill our hearts and minds with Him. We think of Him all the time and meditate on His ways. “I think of you upon my bed, I remember you through the watches of the night” (Ps 63:7). We want to know Him more, and to follow Him more closely.

Third, we grow in our profound recognition of who Jesus is, and he is our Savior. “You indeed are my savior” (Ps 63:8a). He is the vine and we are the branches. Apart from him we can do nothing. We owe him everything--our life and our well-being and our eternal hope. As such, we are filled with great joy. Thus, “in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.” (Ps 63:8b).

Fourth, as we realize our total dependence on him, we cling to the Lord. “My soul clings fast to you; your right hand upholds me” (Ps 63:9). As the world, the flesh and the devil try to pry us away from God, we ever more tightly cling to Him. He is our sure protection and haven. Only in Him can we have fullness of life.

Fifth, as God is our fullness of life, we worship. “I will bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands, calling on your name.” (Ps 63:5). We are creatures before our Creator. We are slaves before our Master. We give God what is His due, and that is worship. When we do worship, we partake of the heavenly banquet, with the angels and saints. “My soul shall be sated as with choice food, with joyous lips my mouth shall praise you!” (Ps 63:6). O what great joy!

So we are called to be saints, martyrs and warriors. That is a life of embracing the cross. It is a life of pain and suffering. But on top of all those, there is profound joy. There is no other life for us. In the face of trials and suffering, that is what we always keep in mind.

That was the case with the prophet Jeremiah. “You seduced me, Lord, and I let myself be seduced; you were too strong for me, and you prevailed. All day long I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me.” (Jer 20:7). As we respond to the call to be saints, martyrs and warriors, we will be mocked by the world. At times we grow weary. At times we might even want to give up. At times we no longer want to do our mission of proclaiming Christ. “I say I will not mention him, I will no longer speak in his name.” (Jer 20:9a).

When these things happen, let us go back to knowing who we are, to putting on the mind of Christ, to realizing our call and what we are to do. Then the fire of God’s love will blaze yet again. “But then it is as if fire is burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones.” (Jer 20:9b). God put such fire in there, in our very bones, in the very fiber of our being. By God’s grace, we can get back on track. “I grow weary holding back, I cannot!” (Jer 20:9c).

Remember: we will be judged at the end of time. “For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.” (Mt 16:27). How will we be judged? How will we fare? What will be our eternal reward or punishment? Remember: “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Mt 16:26). Think about it. Just make sure to put on God’s mind.

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