The ego-centric way vs the Christo-centric way. Do I make God the locus of my life, or do I try to force Him to conform to my ways. This is the constant struggle which each one of us, like St. Peter in today’s Gospel, must face. But in undertaking this struggle, decreasing more and more so that the Lord can increase in us, we become evermore conformed to Christ. It doesn’t come easy, though, which makes it rather unpopular.
Pouring out my life like a libation is a lot harder than taking the path of least resistance against myself and just doing what makes me “happy.” And because of our fallen nature, it’s not always easy to recognize that we are being self-centered or self-serving in our relationship with God. The truth is, God desires so much more for us than just being “happy.” The list of what He wants to give us could take up an entire book, but a good place to start (which is the first thing that comes to mind) is from one of the psalms: “fulfillment and endless peace in Your presence.” That’s just a little morsel of what God wants to pour into our souls here on earth and in eternity.
Now that you’ve seen the ego-centric way to “serve” God, read The Pope’s Sunday Angelus address, below, for a far better guide on how to conform to Christ, not the world.
Dear brothers and sisters, Good Morning!
In the Sunday itinerary with the Gospel of Matthew, we arrive today at the crucial point in which Jesus, after confirming that Peter and the other eleven had believed in Him as the Messiah and Son of God, “began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly…,and be killed and on the third day be raised.” (16,21).
It is a critical moment in which Jesus and the disciples’ way of thinking emerges. Even Peter feels compelled to reproach the Master, because he cannot attribute such a shameful end for the Messiah.
Jesus, in turn, severely reproaches Peter, He puts him “back in line” because he does not think “as God does, but as human beings do.” (v.23) and without realizing that he his playing the role of Satan, the tempter.
The Apostle Paul, in this Sunday’s liturgy also insists upon this point when writing to the Christians of Rome, saying: “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God” (Rm. 12,2)
In fact, we Christians live in the world fully inserted in the social and cultural reality of our time, and rightly so. But this carries the risk that we become “worldly”,the risk that “the salt loses its flavor”, as Jesus would say (cfr. Mt. 5,13), that is, that the Christian is “watered down”, losing the charge of newness that comes from the Lord and the Holy Spirit. Instead, they should be the opposite: when the strength of the Gospel remains alive in Christians, they can transform “mankind’s criteria of judgment, determining values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of inspiration and models of life” (Paul VI, Apost.Exhort. Evangelii nuntiandi, 19).
It is sad to find watered down Christians, who are like watered wine. You can’t tell whether they are Christian or worldly. Like watered wine, where you can’t tell whether it is wine or water. This is sad. It is sad to find Christians that are no longer the salt of the Earth. And we know that when salt loses its flavor, it is no longer useful. Their salt has lost its flavor because they are committed to the spirit of this world. That is, they have become worldly.
Therefore, it is necessary to renew oneself continuously, to draw this sap from the Gospel. And how can one do this in practice? First and foremost, by reading and meditating the Gospel every day, so the word of Jesus may always be present in our life. Remember, it would help you to carry a Gospel with you, a small book of Gospels, in your pocket or in your purse, and read a small passage during the day. But always the Gospel because it is carrying the Word of Jesus and being able to read it.
Also, participating in Sunday Mass, where we find the Lord in the community, listening to His Word and receiving the Eucharist which unites us to Him and one another. And then, days of retreat and spiritual exercises are very important for spiritual renewal.
Gospel, Eucharist, Prayer. Do not forget: Gospel, Eucharist and Prayer. Thanks to these gifts from the Lord, we can conform not to the world, but to Christ, and to follow Him on His path, the path of “losing one’s own life” in order to find it (v.25). “Losing it” in the sense of donating it, offering it for love and in love – and this involves the sacrifice, even to the cross – to receive it again purified, freed from selfishness and from the debt of death, full of eternity.
The Virgin Mary always precedes us on this path; let us be guided and accompanied by Her.
After the Angelus:
Dear brothers and sisters,
Tomorrow, in Italy, the Day for the Care of Creation will be celebrated, which is promoted by the Episcopal Conference. This year’s theme is very important: “Educating to care of creation, for the health of our country and our cities.” I hope that it will strengthen the committment all institutions, associations and citizens, so that the life and the health of all people may be safeguarded as well as respecting the environment and nature.
I greet the pligrims who have come from different countries, in particular, the pilgrims from Santiago de Chile, Pistoia, San Giovanni Bianco e Alban Sant’Alessandro (Bergamo); the youth of Modena, Bassano del Grappa e Ravenna. The large group of police motorcyclists and the police band. It would be beautiful to hear them play at the end.
A special greeting goes to the Catholic parliamentarians, gathered for their 5th international meeting, and I encourage them to live the delicate role of representatives of the people in conformity to the Gospel values.
Yesterday, I received a numerous family from Mirabella Imbaccari (Italy) who brought me the greetings of the countryside. I thank you all from the countryside for your affection.
I greet the participants of the Meeting of Scholas. Continue your work with children and youth, working in education, sports and culture. And I wish you a good match tomorrow at the Olympic Stadium.
I can see from here the youth who belong to the union of plastic recyclers. Be faithful to your motto. It is dangerous to walk alone, in the fields, in life. Always go together.
I wish you a good Sunday. I ask you to pray for me and have a good lunch.
[Translation by Junno Arocho Esteves]
And if you want a beautiful pocket-size edition of the New Testament we love this one by Ignatius Press, which also includes the Psalms.