Total Submission And Conformity To Christ
Readings: 1st: Jer 20, 7-9; Ps 63; 2nd: Rom 12, 1-2; Gos: Mt 16, 21-27
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working with the Spiritan International Group of Puerto Rico & Dominican Republic. He is the Administrator of Parroquia La Resurrección del Senor, Canovanas and the Chancellor of the Diocesis of Fajardo-Humacao, Puerto Rico. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today, the twenty second Sunday of ordinary time, the church, encourages us to overcome all reluctance and obstacles in order to offer ourselves completely to Christ. Hence, all the readings of this Sunday lean towards, total submission and conformity to Christ.
In the first reading, Jeremiah lamented: “Lord you have seduced me; you have overpowered me.” He simply complained about the toughness of his mission. Lord God, but you did not tell me that it was going this difficult! Of course, at the beginning of his call, he resisted God, making excuses: “Lord God, truly I do not know how to speak. I am only a boy.” However, God insisted that He has chosen him even from his mother’s womb. (Jer 1:4-10).
The resistance, submission and ordeal of Jeremiah, tells us that nothing can prevent the mission of God, not even our resistance. This is especially, when His hands are upon one. Though Jeremiah resisted, he eventually submitted to God: “…and I have let myself be seduced.” He conformed to God’s will, and was no longer in charge of himself. Rather, the word of God burned like fire in him, that he could no longer resist preaching it.
After submitting to God, eventually, the Jeremiah who was very timid, and did not know how to speak, became transformed. There is much mystery in God! We over assume that our mission must be easy at all times. Unfortunately, it is not always so. Faithfulness to God at times brings us trials, disappointments and even sufferings. At times, he allows us to experience horrific pains. However, in spite of all these, He shields and blesses us.
In the second reading, Paul employed the language of grace, rather than that of law to implore us: “Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” Here, Paul calls us to submit completely to God without resistance and reservation. To present our bodies is to submit our faculties, and the totality of our being. It is, total surrender to God. This total surrender, is essential to a life of righteousness, joy, peace and victory in Christ.
Of course, to offer oneself completely means accepting all that comes with it. In his second call today, Paul insists that we must conform to Christ, rather than to this world. It is only when we have offered ourselves completely to God, that we can conform to Christ. Conformity to Christ means, living like Christ.
It means, participating in his life and death, with our eyes fixed on his glory. It means that, Christ now lives and works in us through the Holy Spirit (Gal 2:20). This was what the glorious saints did. They submitted, and conformed to Christ by participating in his life, death and resurrection. Now, they participate in His glory.
In today’s gospel, we see the irony of life. The same Peter who proclaimed that Christ is the messiah last week, is today rebuked as “Satan.” Christ simply rebuked him for being an obstacle to his mission. This shows that though, Peter professed that Christ is the Messiah (as God revealed it to him), yet, he has not fully understood the nature of Christ’s mission.
He still sees it only from the perspective of royalty and glory. Of course, he was eager to participate in these. This also teaches us that, we are all vulnerable to making mistakes and falling, no matter how spiritual we are. So, this calls for taking seriously, the admonition of Paul: “Let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he falls” (1 Cor 10:12).
Peter could not understand why Christ should be talking this way. However, God’s call is not only about, and participating in his glory, it is also participating first in his suffering. This is what Christ did. That He offered himself as a living sacrifice, means that he submitted everything without reluctance for our salvation. Yet, Peter has not realized the necessity of Christ’s death, that “it is better for one man to die for the people, than to have the whole nation destroyed.” (Jn 11:50).
Peace be with you all!