Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jeremiah 20:7-9
Romans 12:1-2
Matthew 16:21-27

Catholicism allows for and encourages diversity within the parameters of its teaching. James Joyce may have said it best (in Finnegan’s Wake), “catholic means ‘here comes everybody.’” We confront diversity every day. Catholics can, for instance, accept the same basic social teachings and disagree about the strategies that should be pursued to achieve them. They can accept the same basic theological teachings and be devoted to a variety of pious practices. The problems are not as often between the official Church and the believer as between the believers themselves. Clearly, there is a difference between disagreement and dissent. The difficulties arise when individual believers think that their point of view in these matters is the only one that is correct.

Even after a lifetime of working in the Church, I am still surprised when those who say they are devoted to the same enterprise — the building up of the People of God — attack one another. If ever I thought I could find a community united with one mind and one heart, I was sure it would be in the Church. Fortunately, I am not afflicted with the “Jeremiah Syndrome.” While I can be discouraged, I never wonder why I am part of this Church. The answer is found in today’s Gospel.

Jesus knew that some of his followers would fall away when they discovered the cost of discipleship. Peter, for instance, saw things differently than the Lord. Peter had glorious dreams of what it would mean to follow Jesus. It was inconceivable to the apostle that Jesus should be put to death. Peter would never allow that to happen. Like many of us, Peter had the secret hope that Jesus would want what Peter wanted. Jesus was clear, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” And from generation to generation, we hear that message. It will ever be so as Christ continues to remind his followers about the cost of following him.

Christians are called to look to the Lord as the model for their actions. The Church is the community that has allowed itself to be led by the Lord. Like Jeremiah, we have no choice but to speak in the name of the Father. The wonder of that realization is as profound for this community as it was for the young prophet Jeremiah. God has shaped his own kingdom.

To truly love is to say “I will” even when we know that there is pain on the path. It means to enter into a relationship of faith without fully realizing what it will mean in life. The only thing the Christian can be sure of is the great love of God who sent us his Son.