When Jeremiah reflects on his call to be a prophet to Israel, he says that he was duped by God and that he let himself be duped. God’s love is irresistible and was too strong for him.
Jeremiah’s life as a prophet was not easy, and he had to communicate a difficult message to the people of Judah. He suffered much, was thrown into a pit and exiled to Egypt. He became an object of laughter and was mocked by the very people to whom he ministered. He preaches the Word of the Lord and earnestly seeks to turn their hearts back to the Lord, and for this he receives only derision and reproach. He is tempted not to preach, to let the people go their own way, but the Word of God burns in his heart and he cannot hold it inside. His heart is restless and thirsts for God. He must proclaim the way that leads to life.
After Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God, Jesus reveals to them that, as the Messiah, he must go to Jerusalem, suffer and be put to death, but be raised on the third day. When Peter listens to the Father, he is the Rock; when he listens to Satan, he becomes a stumbling block. When he places himself in front of Jesus and tries to keep him from Jerusalem, he is rebuked by Jesus; when he follows behind Jesus and accompanies him to Jerusalem, he shows himself to be a true disciple.
Jesus’ disciples must learn to imitate him and follow him and take up their cross. They cannot conform their lives to world. Their life is Christ and, sharing in his Cross, they will share in his Resurrection. Jesus’ life is one of self-denial and self-emptying; he centers his life not on himself but on the Father’s love and seeks, in love, to fulfill the Father’s will.
Jesus’ disciples must also deny themselves, seeking not to do their own will, but the will of God. We discern this will through prayer, reading Scripture, spiritual direction, and listening to the Holy Spirit. In prayer, we listen to God and lift up our hearts and minds to him. By reading Scripture, we immerse ourselves in his Word and contemplate the path that leads to life. In spiritual direction, we are able to distinguish more clearly between the voice of God and other voices that want to lead us astray. By listening to the Holy Spirit, we are guided in our daily decisions and empowered to choose what is pleasing to God.
Through the Cross, we lose our old life for the sake of Jesus; but this leads us to the resurrection, to new life in Christ. In humility, we offer up our lives and suffering as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. When we unite our sacrifice to that of Christ, it is not empty, but rather, becomes a “spiritual sacrifice”, acceptable and pleasing to God.
–Readers may contact Fr Jason Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org.