A shocking confrontation

Just after ‘an election win’, when Peter is confirmed as leader of the little group of disciples, there is a strong exchange of words between him and Jesus. Having identified himself to them as indeed the Messiah, Jesus explains what he will have to endure in order to achieve his goal: ‘… to suffer grievously … and be put to death’. Peter is horrified and vehemently advises against it.


But this is the heart of the matter and Jesus tells him bluntly; ‘you are a scandal, an obstacle in my path.’ How often that confrontation takes place! Not only between people but within the heart of a person? The war in Ukraine gets far more coverage than the war in Sudan but the same dynamic is at work. We hear of young men, on the cusp of life, opting to stay and fight, knowing that they may not live to see their wives and children again. 

Matthew, Chapter 16, right in the heart of the gospel is the heart of the gospel. It is decision time. Am I going to choose the ‘better part’, the ‘road less travelled’? Or am I going to take ‘the easy way out’? The question comes all the time. There was a banker in Zambia who was doing well, ‘climbing the ladder’, ‘upwardly mobile’! But she knew in her heart she was not satisfied. The work brought her a comfortable life but no peace. She gave up her career and studied psychology and became a psychotherapist helping countless people. She ‘lost’ her life and found it.

There are many people who make this good and generous choice each day and let us celebrate them. Much of the time we can include ourselves! But the yawning question remains. It goes on beckoning us. It is there in the elections we have just endured. Do we settle back into our normal ways which disturb no one, least of all ourselves? Or do we keep up the reaching, the searching, the straining for something better. There is no authenticity without the cross. It leaves a mark on every decision we make. We either choose the cross and find ‘life’ or avoid it and settle for a half-life.

A hundred years ago, James Joyce gave a terrifying description of a priest’s sermon on judgement and hell to boys in a secondary school in his Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I hope no priest would do the same today! But I suppose many of us have sometimes wondered about what our final exam will be like! Will we get a warm welcome, a ‘well-done’, a Summa cum Laude, or just a pass?! It will be a warm welcome but we still have to keep the question always before our eyes: ‘can I lose my life each day and so find it?’    

3 Sept 2023 Sunday 22A Jer 20:7-9 Rom 12:1-2   Mt 16:21-27

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