You have seduced me, Lord, and I have let myself be seduced;
you have overpowered me: you were the stronger.
I am a daily laughing-stock,
Each time I speak the word, I have to howl
and proclaim: ‘Violence and ruin!’
The word of the Lord has meant for me
insult, derision, all day long.
I used to say, ‘I will not think about him,
I will not speak in his name any more.’
Then there seemed to be a fire burning in my heart,
imprisoned in my bones.
The effort to restrain it wearied me,
I could not bear it.
Think of God’s mercy, my brothers, and worship him, I beg you, in a way that is worthy of thinking beings, by offering your living bodies as a holy sacrifice, truly pleasing to God. Do not model yourselves on the behaviour of the world around you, but let your behaviour change, modelled by your new mind. This is the only way to discover the will of God and know what is good, what it is that God wants, what is the perfect thing to do.
Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. ‘Heaven preserve you, Lord;’ he said ‘this must not happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’
Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it. What, then, will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life? Or what has a man to offer in exchange for his life?
‘For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and, when he does, he will reward each one according to his behaviour.’
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.
When growing up, my parents had pretty high expectations for my siblings and me when it came to education. I will always recall a particular incident while in elementary school, when I was about eight years old. After getting a 95 out of a 100 score in a math quiz (which was one of the top grades in the class), I proudly called my dad at work to tell him the good news. His response was “what happened to the other five points?” Quite a defeating blow to the ego at the time!
With hindsight and time, I now understand why my parents set such high expectations. They were the typical first generation immigrant parents who believed that in order to get ahead (or more like escape one’s despairing position) – they placed their hopes in the success of their kids and their education. Good grades meant good schools. Good schools meant good jobs and hence financial stability.
In the Gospel reading today, when Jesus foretells His death to the disciples, it must have been a very difficult thing for them to accept. Peter, in particular, seemed quite bothered with the idea that Jesus was to be tortured and killed by His enemies. Out of concern and love for Jesus’ “well-being”, but without the right standards to evaluate from, Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him for saying such things. That should have entitled Peter a perfect score – if that was an exam being administered based on our earthly standards. Instead of praising Peter for his concern and kind words, Jesus responds with – “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.” Jesus knew that Peter’s understanding of the way of the Lord was myopic, at the time. As Peter was still relying on his own values and not that of God’s to dictate his beliefs and actions.
How often do we act and behave from our own worldly standards – rather than being guided by God’s code? Way too often – if I were to answer that question for myself. One could argue that His benchmarks are way too high – how will we ever expect to achieve them? But we need to remember that God’s standards are lofty because He is: a Holy Father (John 17:11), a Righteous Father (John 17.25), the just and mighty One (Job 34:17) and most importantly our Loving Father (John 3:16). Rather than feel defeated each time we come up short, maybe we should remember that the only way we can ever meet His expectations is through Jesus.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Steven Su)
Prayer – Lord, we pray for the children around the world who do not have access to basic education – the great equalizer to all. May you show your grace and mercy and enable them to learn Your Word.
Thanksgiving – Heavenly Father, we give thanks to you for giving us goals in life. Help us to focus our ambitions on You, through Your Son Jesus Christ.