A Cycle – 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time 20
After almost three years of being constantly in the presence of Jesus, listening to him, learning from him, witnessing miracles beyond human comprehension, Peter still has not grasped the reason Jesus came to earth. “Get behind me Satan, you are thinking not as God does but as humans think.” Did Jesus expect anything different from Peter than his constant spontaneous erroneous responses to the events he is witnessing? How can you and I shed our human nature to respond correctly to the invitation of Jesus? Does God really expect us not to be influenced by our human nature as we strive to become disciples? Is it even possible for us not to be motivated by our human wants and needs?
Just last week we heard Jesus telling Peter about him becoming the rock on which Jesus would build his church. Did Jesus change his mind or perhaps acted on his own human nature when he said that to Peter. Is Jesus now having second thoughts about Peter? Of course not, we must always keep in mind the scriptures are God’s gift to us and they always reveal God’s desire for us, and they teach us how we are to respond to God.
So, the real question we must ask ourselves today is how we change our human selfish nature and put on the mind of Christ. In many ways we are striving for exactly that end, to be less concerned about self and more concerned about living according to God’s plan. Yet we need to see God’s desire is for us to become Christ like in all aspects of our life. If we examine our spiritual journey, most of us are doing things to learn more about our faith, to become better informed Catholics. We commit to learning to pray differently guided by Benedictine, Franciscan or Ignatian methods. We intentionally change our schedules to attend daily mass or to go to adoration, participate in novenas or group prayer.
We become more committed, but have we shed our human nature to become more Christ like. We may feel as if we are in a better place, but the truth is, we continue to be influenced by our human nature and like Peter we feel like we know how to respond to Christ.
Let us leave Peter for a moment and look at another figure who responded to the call of God. Someone who was transformed by his encounter with God so his human nature was not controlling him – Jeremiah. “You duped me O Lord and I let myself be duped. All day long people mock me, I am the object of laughter. The word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach.” Life for Jeremiah was one of rejection and derision. Jeremiah was rejected, ignored, and ridiculed for his proclaiming the warnings God inspired him to speak. We would find it hard to be treated that way and we would seek to find a remedy so we would be accepted, liked, and praised. That is how our human nature works.
Does Jeremiah soften the message to get along? He wants to be accepted, to belong, to feel as if he is doing something useful for God. He is specific in saying that is what he wants, and he wants the derision to stop. Listen to him, “I will not mention him; I will speak his name no more.” But he cannot stop, he must fulfill God’s plan among the people by proclaiming God’s word to open their eyes? “It becomes like a fire burning in my heart, I cannot contain it.” His human nature has been overcome by something else that burns within him. That something else is what each of us needs to happen to us for us to become disciples rather than informed Catholics. That is what we need to become a people built into a spiritual house containing the living God within us.
Let us go back to this chastised Peter. We know how Peter’s story ends don’t we. We know he becomes that rock and we know his human nature was changed so it is no longer controls his actions.
He becomes as compelled as Jeremiah to make the nature of God known. What made the difference in Peter was not more instruction by Jesus. No, it was something far greater.
The very thing which changed him is eager to change us so we will fulfill our destiny and become the very image of Christ. That is not from my own insights but is revealed by God in the scriptures. Here is how Paul, another person whose human nature was changed, said it: “…we gazing of the face of God are being transformed into his image with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18).
Peter experienced two things after his human nature once again reared up to have him deny knowing Christ. He experienced forgiveness as Jesus appeared to him on the shore. Then after the ascension of Jesus he experienced the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. You and me, need to experience both of those things in order for us to comprehend the freeing power of the death of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins and the depth of God’s love poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
Those two things, forgiveness and the action of the Spirit will change us, so our human nature is not controlling us. The Holy Spirit will change our hearts, enlighten our minds, and set our hearts on fire overcoming our human nature so we will be willing to always stand up for Christ and never compromise our faith for human approval.
How can we experience forgiveness and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit? The same way Peter did, stripping ourselves of everything and allowing Jesus to embrace us and speak to our hearts. Then we will discover a place where we wait in prayer for the promised power from on high to clothe us. Those two things are very hard things to do because they go against our human nature.