Reflection for Sunday, September 1, 2002: 22nd week in Ordinary Time.

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Gillick, Larry, S.J.
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So as to prepare more receptively for the graces of the liturgy, we might picture a stage with no scenery. Two men are standing at opposite sides facing you. On the left is a trembling downcast grumbler. He looks up at times, then puts his face in his hands. He seems to be arguing with himself and with somebody off stage.|The other person seems to be watching this troubled man with compassion and understanding. He himself seems to be arguing and pulling away from some off-stage person who is trying to hold him back from moving on and speaking his message.|PRE-PRAYERING Jeremiah and Jesus have the fire in their bellies and hearts. Jeremiah experiences his own humanity in doubting, fearing and resisting. He is his own obstacle. Jesus experiences Peter's humanity and our own as well. Peter wants to go backwards, perhaps back up to the mountain where things were comfortable, mysterious yes, but affirming. Peter is calling Jesus to reconsider.|We can pray these days with our commitments and the interior and exterior obstacles we encounter. Our fears, doubts, desires for calm confirmations are parts of our humanity which Jesus embraces and invites us to pick up and face every day. We can pray as did Jeremiah with our conflicts which Jesus' call puts us in. Jeremiah and Peter represent the inside and outside tensions, we experience in living our faith. We can pray with God's call and the call of our human drives for popularity, acceptance, prestige and success. We pray for the freedom to choose our being repaid in the next life no matter what the cost in this life. We do not pray to be released from these tensions, but rather for the freedom to live with the bonds of love and hope.|We hear in the First Reading Jeremiah talking partly to the God who has called him and partly to himself. In the previous chapter, we read the terrible things, which Jeremiah has told the kings and leaders of Israel. They are all going into captivity and all their valuables will be plundered. Pashhur, a temple personage, has heard enough of this so Jeremiah lays a prophesy on him as well and all his family.|What we hear is the result of speaking the word of God and living it sincerely. He is beaten, locked in stocks and derided by those who were his friends. They mock him with his own words and with all this; he turns towards God and inward on himself. What he finds is his fire, his mission from which he can not turn away.|Last week we heard Jesus name Peter the "Rock". This Sunday we hear Jesus call him a "Satan" or skanndalon in Greek, meaning "obstacle." Peter, who declared Jesus to be the Christ, now hears Jesus revealing to him what being the Christ means. He, Jesus, must go to Jerusalem, suffer, die and rise. Peter does not like what he hears and so attempts to talk sense into Jesus. Jesus has a good sense of who he is and offers it to the disciples in a paradoxical form.|Jesus talks to his early followers about denying self and saving and losing life as well as gaining and forfeiting. In brief Jesus is telling his friends about his new value system; there is more to life than meets or attracts the eye.|What is valuable to us is so because it is important. Your family's scrapbook is valuable because the persons pictured there are important to you. We value security and safety so we lock doors and windows of our houses, at least in this culture. Jesus proposes to his listeners a different culture for us to encourage and live.|Denying, losing, sacrificing, the cross itself are important to Jesus because of the life which flows from this way of his living his life. As his followers, we are invited to embrace self-denial so as to bring more life into our families, friendships and this world. We hear easily the voice of Peter within us convincing us not to give up the standard ways of importance. Do not risk advancement! Do not trust "later" seize the "now" and build on that. Trust what you know of life as lived under a self-protective value-system; do not go towards Jerusalem or any of its suburbs.|Jeremiah and Jesus had a fire of desire to value the true and real above the forces of adversity and rejection. We as followers of Jesus are invited to check out our present importances by seeing what adjectives or names we would give to aspects of our own present "value-systems." Would we deny ourselves for the advancement of what is important to us; would we suffer for them? For whom do we pick up our crosses? Perhaps the "conduct" upon which we will be repaid depends on how importantly we value real life.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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