September 3, 2017 – Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

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“You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed.”

I often tell people that God “tricked” me into youth ministry 26 years ago, and many people respond saying God doesn’t trick people. I think the prophet Jeremiah might disagree. The key to understanding God’s way of duping or “tricking” us is that He does so without ever infringing on our human dignity or free will. In fact, God’s way of duping us normally involves getting us to see what our hearts really desired in the first place. It’s more about duping our stubbornness than about taking away our freedom. Many times we are stubborn because we are afraid. We are afraid of the demands placed on us by love. We are afraid of the commitment and sacrifice required to be a disciple of Christ. We are afraid because we allow the mindset of the world to crowd Truth from our minds.

“Do not conform yourself to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…”

Life isn’t simple. It seems the more we plug into technology, the less we seem to be able to connect with one another. The more we work trying to get ahead, the more we seem to fall behind. The more we try to control every aspect of our lives, the more out of control we feel. We are created in the image and likeness of God, and we are complex, amazing, physical, emotional and spiritual beings. It is so easy living in the world, to start to think and act like the world. It is so easy to slip into the psychological free fall of our post-modern culture—and all the stress, anxiety and emptiness that comes with it. We don’t *want* to think and speak and act like the world around us, but without constant scrutiny, daily examination of conscience and a healthy self-knowledge, it is difficult to guard against. The renewal of our minds comes from three things: 1) Daily Prayer: This is the interior conversation that connects us heart-to-heart with Jesus. Without this time set aside, we cannot begin to hear the still, small voice that speaks to our in-most being. Make no mistake, God will NOT compete with the noise of the world when He is so far above it. But He will make Himself quiet and small to become our intimate friend. 2) Spiritual Reading and Reflection: Make it a habit to read a little Scripture and a little bit of one other spiritual book each day. This can be anything from a book about a Saint, written by a Saint, an encyclical, or the Catechism. The point is to be putting Truth and inspiration into your mind and then reflecting on what you have read. It is often said that you are what you eat. I believe you are what you read. 3) Turn Off Technology: While technology is certainly not immoral in and of itself, it is a brain-drain for many of us. Many of us spend too much time online looking at cat videos, snap chatting, and watching Netflix. Not to mention the 24-hour news cycle: fake news, dramatic news, up-to-the-minute-reporting and screaming click-bait headlines that scare and agitate us at the same time. Too often our hearts and minds get caught in the middle of the screaming extremes and we find our peace under attack. When we lose out peace, we stop trusting in God and we stop seeing the big picture (eternity), which tempts us to rash judgments and bad choices.

“You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

These difficult words from Jesus to St. Peter in today’s Gospel are a rebuke to all of us who fail to trust in His goodness and plan. From our stubborn hearts are born divided hearts which lead to conforming to this age, which lead to thinking like humans, despite all the evidence of God’s love to the contrary. Operating out of fear, rather than faith, St. Peter spoke words that failed to see the ultimate victory of the cross. His words sought freedom from pain and suffering. He was looking for the easy path to following Jesus. But there is no easy path. Love has demands. Love involves suffering. Love requires sacrifice. This is the counter-cultural message of Truth offered to our post-modern world. We would rather have things comfortable, safe and easy than risky and difficult. Not only do we not want to pick up our cross, we don’t even want to look at it. If Jesus had told us to pick up our pillows, some might even resist. But God’s way of thinking is “whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it”.
As hard as it is from time to time, wouldn’t you rather live a difficult life, filled with the demands of love, and experience the joy and peace of true freedom, than settle for a comfortable, easy life filled with the anxiety and emptiness of false freedom? Me too. Peace my friends.

Any Given Sunday Project © 2015