In our first reading today, poor Jeremiah says, “You duped me, O LORD…all the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me.” He complains that by acting with integrity and responding to God’s call, he is a daily laughingstock among the people. Despite his temptation to give up, Jeremiah finds the courage to go on. In the Gospel, Jesus was tempted to give up, too. He knew He had to make his last journey to Jerusalem and face the suffering that awaited Him there. However, Peter, albeit with good intentions, tries to persuade Jesus not to go. Jesus says, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” Jesus and Jeremiah show us that it takes courage to do what God asks of us, especially in a hostile environment. Both would be insulted, ridiculed, and the brunt of jokes. But still, they were prepared to suffer for doing what was right—and Jesus, He gave His life because of it. Tradition tells us that Jeremiah did too, being stoned to death by his own people.
In speaking to the early Christians in Rome, St. Paul said in the second reading to hold on to your principles and do what is holy and pleasing to God. He told them not to conform to the behaviors of the world, but to discern the will of God and do what is “good and pleasing and perfect.” That means we try to live by a higher standard of love and virtue than what is found in the world. We try to live by the 10 commandments. We love God with our whole heart, and our neighbor as ourselves. We do this not only because that’s what Jesus expects of us. We do these things to teach our children how to live a virtuous life, too.
As disciples of Christ, we must be prepared to be rejected, outcast, and suffer for doing what is right. That’s why Jesus tells us today to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. Having the courage to carry our cross, set a good example, and love each other will lead not only to a much better world, but also to a reward in Heaven much greater than anything possible here on earth.