So I guess I will be posting the first real entry for this blog. Sorry for the delay, I had a jam-packed day that was capped off by one of my favorite activities, attending Mass. My name is Luke, and I am beginning my fourth year in the Biomedical Engineering program at the University of Cincinnati. While I am still very unsure of my future and where God will lead me, I have been considering medicine for some time now. I will hopefully be one step closer after I receive my MCAT score this Tuesday (yes, I am extremely nervous!!!) I will try to give a real short bio. I grew up in a rather small suburb on the east side of Cleveland, called South Euclid. However, I have spent the majority of my recent life in good ol’ Cincinnati. In the past 3 years, I have had many wonderful experiences at my Catholic home away from home, St. Monica-St. George Parish.
However, unfortunately, my wonderful autobiography is not the feature of this post. We are presented with some challenging ideas in today’s readings for the 22th Sunday in Ordinary Time. I am going to focus mostly on the Gospel in this post, since I find it rich with tough ideas that might challenge our thinking. I might also mix in something about the saint of the day, St. Raymond Nonnatus.
The Gospel today presents one of the first predictions of the Passion of Christ.
Jesus began to show his disciples
that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly
from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised (Matthew 16:21).
However, the apostles were bewildered by this statement, and it is Peter who speaks out, saying, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you. (Matthew 16:22)”
Jesus sees that Satan is within Peter, and demands that Peter move behind him, for Peter is an obstacle for the path must be taken by Jesus. Then Jesus goes on to say that Peter is thinking in a human, not divine, manner. There are many instances in our everyday life where it might be difficult to accept God’s mysterious, and sometimes even paradoxical actions. It might be the unexpected death of a family member or friend, or a sudden illness or unfortunate diagnosis. We might even misunderstand God’s actions based on petty inconveniences or a series of obstacles, like spilling your coffee on yourself and arriving late to class or receiving a bad grade on a really important exam. Even though God works in mysterious ways, we must be vigilant in reminding ourselves that no matter the present obstacle or unfortunate event, God knows what is best for us and our loved ones.
While this is an instance where Peter is not in the correct frame of mind, he does redeem himself, taking up the task of leading the Church as the first Pope. After scolding Peter, Jesus explains that to follow him, one must deny himself or herself, take up their cross, and follow him. What does it mean to deny oneself? Yes you can deny an answer or even an attempted basketball shot, but this is much different than what Jesus is asking of us. This denial that Jesus asks of us means that we must no longer think only of ourselves. We must not put ourselves at the center of the universe. Following Jesus means that we will endure suffering, which might be in the form of ridicule or nonacceptance, or even in the most severe forms, physical suffering. This is a difficult task indeed, but the Lord is present to nourish us. We are not alone in this journey; we have the support of God.
A great example of denial of oneself in order to follow Jesus can be seen in St. Raymond Nonnatus. During the 1200s, St. Raymond would travel to Africa to free Christian hostages, by paying their ransom. When his monetary fund ran dry, he exchanged himself for the freedom of hostages. While he was being tortured, he converted several of the guards. After this, his lips were padlocked shut. St. Raymond thought nothing of himself and the pain that he was going through, his main goal was to spread the Good News. Now this is a very extreme example, but it is also very admirable, and shows true devotion to God. There are simple things that we can do to deny ourselves. For example, consider stopping to talk to someone that looks lonely or troubled even though you know that you are going to be late to a meeting or class. You could also try giving up that Starbucks coffee in exchange for buying a sandwich for the homeless man that is always walking up and down the street. These simple actions are ways that we can deny ourselves, take up the cross, and follow Jesus Christ.
Well, hopefully I will be posting again sometime soon, but I hope everyone had a wonderful Sunday. Remember that God knows what is best for us, and He loves us all unconditionally.