SUNDAY GOSPEL LECTIO DIVINA RSS
“If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
Here is the theme of Christ-like passion returning yet again. Keeping my relationship with God personal, so that he can love me and I can love him in ways that only he and I can understand, is a cornerstone of our love. When we love someone, we are willing to humble ourselves so they see us for who we really are. This is the kind of relationship to which Jesus is calling the Twelve. He wants them to strip away even their desire for esteem in Jesus’ eyes so they can be real with him. Nothing hurts our relationship with God more than our attempts to be the greatest in his eyes. This makes us fake. It makes us pursue righteousness for the wrong reasons. Seeking greatness makes us pursue our own idea of righteousness. Jesus wants us to die to ourselves so he may fill us with his holiness, the only kind there is. We reach this death-to-self state of being when we push ourselves beyond our human capacity so there is nothing left of us. So often I do not want to take those steps into my own passion. As long as I don’t take those steps into the unknown, where my strength ends and God’s begins, I will remain the ruler of my own life and God cannot take over. So often it is clear that this is what I prefer. However, despite how much it sounds like such a life provides more freedom, it makes me a slave to my own base passions.
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”
This is what it means to be a Christian, and it is also the hardest part. When we follow Christ our life is no longer about us. It may be tough to see the connection between Christ’s words to Peter and these words that follow. But Christ is saying that Peter is chasing after the wrong thing. He may think he is protecting Christ, but in reality Peter is only protecting his idea of who Christ should be. He is rebuked by Christ for his vanity. Peter did not trust Jesus, and by not trusting he was not denying himself because he was relying on his own understanding.
Jesus’ miracles of healing always point to a deeper spiritual message. Here, he is inviting the witnesses of the miracle to open their hearts to the word of truth that is now among them. The Bible says in a few other places that people will be “ever seeing but never perceiving, ever hearing but never understanding.” Last week, Jesus quotes Isaiah saying, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Again, Jesus is using the physical realm to direct people to a spiritual reality; this time it’s the reality that people are deaf to the voice of God. God wants our hearts to be opened to him so we can hear his voice. What steps can I take to eliminate my spiritual deafness?
“Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” This may just be my favorite verse in the Bible. The Gospel says that after Jesus gave them the hard saying about his body being the bread of life, many of his followers left Jesus and returned to their former way of life. Peter and the disciples stayed. They stayed because they knew there was nothing else more fulfilling out there in the world than following Jesus. They could travel the world, obtain all its riches and fame, and still end up empty because the world does not offer the words of eternal life. Jesus does.