Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Reflection for the 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Part 2

Thursday – A Quick Turn Around

Today's Gospel features what has to be the quickest turn around ever. One minute Simon is declaring that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God and hearing Jesus say that He will build His Church upon the rock who is now called Peter. But just a few moments later, Simon Peter is rebuking Jesus for talking about His death and hearing Jesus say, “Get behind me, Satan!”

What a change! What happened?

First off, Peter wasn't speaking on his own when he proclaimed Jesus to be the Messiah and Son of God. He was opening his heart to allow God the Father to speak through him. His testimony was just as much for himself as it was for those listening. God was using him to reveal a mysterious truth.

But it's clear that Peter did not grasp the extent or implications of this truth. He couldn't see it through to its end. He didn't realize that the Messiah had come to die, and when Jesus told him that, he could not accept it. He was no longer allowing God to pour the grace of understanding into his mind. He stepped back into his own ways of thinking, and he failed to grasp the real meaning of Jesus' Messiahship, thereby earning a sharp rebuke from Jesus.

We, too, need to be careful how we are thinking. We should ask God every day to fill us with the right kinds of thoughts, thoughts that are true, good, and beautiful. We should pray for an increase in knowledge, understanding, right judgment, and wisdom so we can see clearly in every situation and act according to God's law of love. We must always ask our Lord to purify our minds and hearts that our every thought, word, and deed may give Him honor, glory, and especially love.

Friday – Losing Our Lives

Jesus often says shocking things to get our attention and teach us important truths. In today's Gospel, for instance, He proclaims, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

This goes against our deepest instincts. We humans naturally want to preserve our lives. But Jesus tells us to let go. Life is important, yes, but He is more important. We should not hold onto our lives so tightly that we let go of Him. We can save our earthly lives, but if we do so by the wrong means, we could end up losing our eternal life. If, on the other hand, we place our earthly lives in Jesus' hands, He will raise them up into eternity.

While this verse does apply on the level of physical life and death, there are many other ways in which we humans tend to place an iron grip on our lives. We might fight against letting go of things that really aren't good for us, like addictions, bad habits, sins, and harmful people and situations. We might cling to the status quo because we fear change. We might turn away from God's call because we are attached to our own plans. In these cases, too, we must lose our lives, or our conception of them, and trust that God has something much better in store for us.

This isn't easy. It requires sacrifice and pain, death to our own inclinations and ideas, and sometimes even physical death, but our loving God has an abundance of life in store for us. We just need to let Him give it to us.

Saturday – A Lamp Shining

St. Peter explains that “the prophetic message,” i.e. Sacred Scripture, is like “a lamp shining in a dark place.” Think about that for a moment. Have you ever thought about the Bible in that way? God's Word is a lamp that illuminates our hearts and shows us the path home to Heaven.

So read it. Open your hearts, and let God fill them with His light. Bask in His words. Let His warm glow seep into your mind and heart and soul. If you don't understand something you read, ask God to show you the meaning. He will. It may be through a commentary or another person or perhaps even in the depths of you own heart, but God will speak to you in just the right way. He wants you to know and love Him.

So pick up your Bible today. You don't have to read much. Even a verse or two will do. Just read with a prayerful, listening attitude, and be ready to open yourself to God's loving light.

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