Poor Saint Peter. He just can't seem to catch a break, can he? In last week's Gospel, he seemed to have everything well in line, even to the point of realizing that Jesus is the Son of God, and received very high praise and was rewarded for that realization. This week, however, he's not doing so well. In the Gospel reading today, which occurs right after last week's Gospel, Peter gets called Satan and rebuked by Our Lord.
What Peter didn't realize is that Our Lord's death is not something that he could will away. Peter thought that he and the other disciples could protect Jesus from anyone who would harm Him, but he didn't realize that Our Lord's mission was to sacrifice Himself for our sins. Peter also didn't realize that by sacrificing Himself, Jesus is showing us what we need to be willing to do to follow him.
For those of us who are Christians and take our faith seriously, it's not enough to merely say, “I'm a Christian.” It's not enough to believe in God and Jesus. It's really not even enough to come to Mass on a regular basis, as important as that is. To be a disciple of the Lord means having a willingness to give ourselves over to Him completely, even if giving ourselves to Him includes having to give up our lives on Earth to serve His will. The self-sacrifice that is required to truly follow Jesus may not be this extreme, but we should let nothing get between us and Him.
This doesn't make sense to those who are steeped in the world. For those who follow what the world teaches, sacrificing everything we have – our possessions, our plans for our lives, and even our earthly lives themselves – is completely incomprehensible. As Christians, we are called to give up much that the world sees as good, and focus our attention on God's will.
This sacrifice of the things of the world may not mean that we have to give away everything we own. We may even have many possessions, such as nicely furnished house and decent car, and make a good income, but we cannot allow those possessions and things of the world get between us and God. If we are willing to turn our lives over to God's providence and not allow the world distract us, we will receive our rewards in the life to come.
At the same time, we cannot be distant from the problems of the world. We must discern not only what God wills for our lives individually, but also what God's will is for all humanity. It's often hard enough to hear what God is saying to each of us in the silence of our hearts, but it can far more difficult breaking through the noise of the world in order to hear His plan for all creation. We must continually make the effort to discern His will for creation, and work to bring that will to fruition. We must not allow the world to dictate to us, but must allow God's will to work through us to dictate to the world.
Unfortunately, I probably sound a bit like a broken record in some of these homilies, repeating the necessity for uniting our wills to God's will and approaching Him with humility. Sadly, we live in a world where those who are willing to follow God's will are ridiculed and insulted, much as Jeremiah describes in the first reading.
It is not an easy task to run counter to the prevailing culture. While this country may have Christian roots, many of the messages of the culture that surround us are based in a non-Christian view of humanity. Sometimes the culture we live in can even be anti-Christian. It is in this culture that we seek to understand God's will, and to follow Jesus.
How do we hear God's will? First and foremost, we must approach Our Lord with humility, asking for the graces to follow the Father's will. Through regular prayer, especially popular devotions like the Rosary, we will grow closer to God and learn to hear Him speaking to us.
Secondly, we must devote ourselves to finding opportunities to study about God and become more familiar with Him. We must seek to understand the Scriptures more closely, for it is God's revealed word. Likewise, we must find good spiritual and theological reading which will help us to understand what God is saying to us today.
As we seek to hear and follow the Father's will, may we be willing to sacrifice everything in order to follow Him.