05 September 2017

You're Killing Me, Smalls!

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sometimes there are quotes from different things that we have read or seen that stick with us and come to mind.  In the move “The Sandlot,” there’s a line that often gets used among people of my age: “You’re killing me, Smalls!”  Or a series of books that I read called the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan includes a line from the protagonist that has stuck with me: “duty is heavier than a mountain; death lighter than a feather.”  When Alan Rickman, who played Severus Snape in the “Harry Potter” series died, his one word response to Dumbledore, “Always,” becomes an oft-mentioned word.  And, on a lighter note, anyone who has seen “The Lion King,” is sure to say, at least once in a while, “Hakuna Matata.”
Scripture is also a great place to find quotes that can and should stick with us.  Bishops, and popes often have mottos for their ministry.  Bishop Mengeling’s phrase was “He Must Increase,” which is from St. John the Baptist in the Gospel according to John, when John says, “He must increase; I must decrease” in reference to Jesus.  Bishop Boyea’s motto is “In manus tuas,” which is Latin for “Into your hands.”  This comes from Psalm 31, and says, “Into you hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.”  It was also the words that Jesus said as He was dying on the cross, and is part of a response that consecrated men and women, and those in holy orders say before they go to bed each night.  In seminary, we had a classmate who was joking about becoming a bishop.  We said that his motto should be, “And Jesus wept.”

Today in our readings, we have four Scripture passages that might stick with us.  From our first reading: “You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped”; from the responsorial psalm: “My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God”; from our second reading we have two options: “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship” and “Do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind”; and from our Gospel: “Get behind me, Satan!”
Each of these has its own context.  In the first reading, Jeremiah is fed up with God, because all Jeremiah has done is tell the people what God told him, and yet everyone hates him.  Jeremiah suffered greatly, because the people didn’t want to hear that they needed to change, or else they would be exiled by the Babylonians.  Jeremiah feels compelled to say what God wants him to say, because Jeremiah loves God, but that love of God leads to suffering, and Jeremiah feels like he was tricked, but he can’t stop speaking for God.
In our Psalm, the author talks about how he wants God, desires God, like parched earth for water, so he looks toward the sanctuary to see the power and glory of God.  This is a psalm that is said on every special celebration in the Church’s life by those in religious communities and holy orders, so it’s one that comes to my mind often.
Our second reading with its two passages are from St. Paul, who is urging the early Roman Christians to be faithful to Jesus Christ.  St. Paul encourages the Romans to not simply let Catholicism be a religion of the mind, where we think about holy things and quietly commune with God in our souls, but even to offer our bodies to God, as a form of worship, as a way of giving God praise, so that what we do with our bodies and our souls may both be acceptable to God, whom we worship.  The second phrase, though, guards the Romans against becoming to comfortable in a pagan society, and being modeled on the outside world.  Instead, St. Paul says that they should be transformed by the conversion of what they think is good, so that they might do what is good and pleasing and perfect to God.
Lastly, our Gospel, which sounds like a good admonition to get rid of temptations, is spoken to St. Peter.  This passage follows after the one we heard last week, where Jesus calls Peter blessed and the rock upon which Jesus will build His Church.  This week, after Peter says that Jesus should not suffer, die, and be raised, Jesus says to Peter, “‘Get behind me, Satan!  You are an obstacle to me.  You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.’”  Jesus insists to Peter and the other apostles that suffering is part of the plan of God for the redemption of humanity, because suffering is part of the human condition, and Jesus must take it all upon Himself in order to redeem the entire human condition.

There are other passages in Scripture that we can use.  Memorizing little bits of Scripture can help us as we go throughout our day, in good times and bad, to praise the Lord or ask for His help.  When we feel like nothing’s going right even though we try to do God’s will, we might say, “You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped.”  When we feel like we need God to be present to us, we might say, “My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.”  When we need to remember that being Catholic is not simply about the prayers we say in quiet, or the thoughts in our head, or that we should not let ourselves become like our fallen, hedonist culture, we might say, “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship” or “Do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”  When we are tempted by Satan in any way, or when we are afraid to follow God’s plan because it’s not the one that we want, we should say, “Get behind me, Satan!”  The Word of God can help us in any situation.  Let’s be familiar with it so that we can turn to Jesus, the Word of God, when we want to thank God and ask for His help, in times of sorrow and times of joy.