Reading I: Jeremiah 20:7-9
Reading II: Romans 12:1-2
GOSPEL: Matthew 16:21-27

Heaven is Coming

Last Sunday, Peter received the Keys to the kingdom. This week, Jesus tells him, “Get behind me Satan.” Peter gets a lesson from Jesus on what one must do in order to follow Him. The readings focus on the attitudes and actions expected from people who consider themselves followers of God.

Transforming by the Renewal of Our Minds

Paul is calling on us to think differently. For example, the automatic response we tend to have is a concern for how things affect us. We tend to ask questions like: What’s in it for me? What will others think? Will this be difficult to do? What is the real cost? These and many other questions are asked before we even start trying to understand what God is calling us to do.

Webster’s Dictionary offers this definition for the word transform:
“to change or alter completely in nature, form or function”

Paul challenges us to transform our lives in a way that makes a real difference. He tells us to not be comfortable with what the world thinks, but to try to understand the will of God. Only by tuning out the clamoring voices of the world – and turning away from many of the temptations it offers – can we discern God’s voice and find what is “good and pleasing and perfect.”

What Is Good and Pleasing and Perfect

In youth ministry, peer pressure is a big issue. Sometimes we act like it’s only a teen issue – but how many times do adults sit at a party or at work and hear someone make a racial or ethnic comment without confronting it? How many times do adults hear gossip or hurtful information about someone and listen to it or, worse yet, spread it further? Adults tend to fall victim to inaction when we avoid face-to-face conflict.

Transforming our minds to the attitude of God means that we are able to know the right thing to do when necessary, even when it is uncomfortable or means going against the crowd. But knowing the right thing is only half the battle; the other half is actually doing it!

It may sound simple, but it’s definitely not easy! Even if we believe we are doing the right thing, how can we know what is pleasing and perfect to God? What is it that we can do in a certain situation that will ultimately be pleasing to our Lord? Well, my theory is that life often presents us with difficult situations so that we can grow as we struggle to find the right answer. This is why God is so forgiving – and why we have the Sacrament of Reconciliation available to us. We don’t always get it right. The important part is that we are driven to do what is good and pleasing and perfect to God.

Repaid According to Our Conduct

In fact, Jesus tells us in the gospel that this life is not where we should focus our time and energy, but rather what awaits us in the next life. We are to know that what happens after this life is where our treasures should be, not here and now. “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?”

But what we must begin to understand is that being a Christian doesn’t mean life will be easy. Jesus tells Peter (and all of us) that we must deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow him. There will be pain and suffering in life. It is how we respond to such suffering that makes the difference.

Sometimes we can fool ourselves into thinking that our faith (or lack of faith) determines how much suffering will be in our lives. The truth is that suffering will happen. How will we respond to such suffering? If we trust and live our lives trying to think and do what God wants us to do, then our faith will get us through. On the other hand, if our faith is empty or if we do things to only look like we are outwardly Christian, then we will feel empty and lost when life gets difficult or during times of crises. Our faith in God can and does sustain us during the most difficult of times!

Jesus’ life is a model for all of us. He suffered, died, and then rose from the dead. The Resurrection is the ultimate reward promised by Jesus in this week’s Gospel. We know this because Jesus says, “For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”

In other words, heaven is coming!

Life Applications:

How do you gain the wisdom to know the right action to take?
How does peer pressure hold you back from doing what is right?
What suffering have you experienced in your life?
How do you respond to such suffering?

Original article by Deacon Jim Corder, 2002 – 2020.
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