Perhaps you were somewhat uncomfortable with last week’s emphasis on the heart? If you were, then reflect on the closing verse of

THIS SUNDAY’S OLD TESTAMENT READING [JEREMIAH 20: 7 – 9]. … there is in my heart a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.”

Juxtapose this verse with phrases from

TODAY’S PSALM [63 or 62] …. for you my flesh is pining …. my lips will speak your praise …. for you have been my strength … my soul clings to you … your right hand upholds me.”

Is not all of this {Jeremiah and Psalm} a description of heart speaking to heart?

Yet, the message of Jeremiah contains much more. There are times when men and women of faith find the going tough – and may even resent the hard road. “Lord, you have deceived me, and I was deceived …. I have become a laughing stock … everyone mocks me … the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision.” Not many of us will fail to recognise ourselves at the more difficult times of hardship and suffering which we have encountered.

Then, our experience reminds us that we come to our senses and we, like Jeremiah, feel the burning fire in our hearts which we cannot hold in, and know that the weariness we are feeling is the result of too much mind and not allowing my heart to speak to his – or as the Lord asked Paul on the road to Damascus, “why do you kick against the goad.”

{Acts 26:14}

Better still are other words of Paul when he proclaims the faith of the heart which cannot be shut up for ever. “Hard-pressed on every side, we are never hemmed in; bewildered, we are never at our wits’ end; hunted, we are never abandoned to our fate; struck down, we are not left to die.”

{2 Corinthians 4: 8 – 10} These verses bring together those quoted from Jeremiah and today’s Psalm.

TODAY’S GOSPEL VERSES [MATTHEW 16: 21 – 27]

tell us that Jesus leads by example – the example of faith and trust in the Father. Jesus began to show his disciples that he must … suffer many things … be killed and on the third day be raised.” Hear these words against the backdrop of the verses quoted above from 2 Corinthians. Many Christians focus on the quite appalling physical sufferings of the Lord at his Passion and Death. What is often forgotten or ignored is the example of his faith and trust which arose from the fact that the heart of God the Father spoke to the heart of the Son, and the Sons’ heart spoke to the heart of his Father.

In addition, as we recall today’s message of Jeremiah we have to hear Peter’s attempt to dissuade the Master – God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” The rebuke delivered by Jesus says it all – “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.” As Jeremiah proclaimed, ” every one mocks me …. (but) there is a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot.”

There is another telling little phrase in our Gospel extract when we are told that “Jesus began to show his disciples ….”

HE BEGAN to show! They still had much to learn. So do we. Our temptation, often, is to say God forbid that this should or has happened to me? It is never a question that we should become discontented masochists. Rather it is a matter of nurturing a faith which is able to live through, as faithful and faith-filled disciples, the difficulties, challenges, disappointments and sufferings which are a part (not created by God and never sent as a punishment) of our human conditions. Of course, there will always be the initial reactions as described by Jeremiah but the response of the faith-filled disciple is proclaimed by the prophet. This response is the burning fire which cannot be held in.

All of this is an integral element of the second part of the lesson which began, and “then Jesus told his disciples …” all about the need to carry our crosses as they come to us because it is through this that we discover how by losing our life we save it and by saving it we “will find it.” Recall from last week how Shebna was thrust from his office because he had “forfeited his life” because he was under the erroneous impression that he was able to give, on his terms, something in return.

Finally, it is worthwhile for us to latch on to some words from TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT READING [ROMANS 12: 1 – 2]. “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” It is so clear how these words paraphrase the message of Jeremiah and Jesus Gospel teaching.