Sunday Eucharist prayers, readings and reflections are available below.
TRINITY XII SUNDAY 30 AUGUST
"Take up thy cross, the Saviour said,
If thou wouldst my disciple be;
Deny thyself, the world forsake,
And humbly follow after me."
Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray and to give more than either we desire or deserve: pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.
Romans 12:9-end, Matthew 16:21-end.
Give grace to the Church to show forth the death of our Lord, to follow where he leads and proclaim his salvation.
Have pity on all who are in misery through their own selfishness or by the indifference of those who rule over them.
Have mercy on those who bear the heavy crosses of sickness or poverty, of loneliness or bereavement. We pray especially for the sick, for Paul Evans and Gerald Lewis.
Give us grace to follow the Cross in this world that we may at last enter into eternal life.
Last Sunday, Fr Paul told us that among Jesus’s disciples St Peter was a real mixture of contradictions. He was impulsive and passionate. He could be supremely confident (“Lord, I will never abandon you”), only to retreat in panic when Jesus was arrested (“Jesus of Nazareth? I don’t know him.”) One minute he was jumping into the sea to swim to the Risen Lord on the shore, and the next moment remembering that he has to confess to Jesus that he betrayed him. Later on, he made a real breakthrough when he realized that the Church had to be for everyone who acknowledged Jesus, for Gentiles as well as for Jews; yet he could backtrack on this when he came under fire for saying it.
I don’t know about you, but I find this man immensely encouraging, because he reflects the contradictions which are in me, perhaps even in you. St Paul I can find intimidating, because he’s so relentless in what he’s doing and saying, but Peter gives me hope that even mixed-up people are still called by God, and that we’re all people Jesus wants to keep Him company.
Peter could get things amazingly right, but he could get things amazingly wrong. Last week we heard how Peter sees that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and Jesus rewards him by telling him that he will be a foundation stone of the future Church; today, we hear Jesus saying to Peter, “get out of my way. You’re becoming a stone I can trip over.” The name Satan, which Jesus uses about Peter, means literally an adversary, someone who can make us stumble.
So, what did Peter get wrong? Quite simply, he didn’t understand the path which Jesus needed to take. Jesus tells His disciples that when they get to Jerusalem He’ll be seized and killed by the religious authorities because of Who He is and What He’s teaching and the way He’s living. Peter jumps in with both feet and says, “No! This can’t possibly happen to you.” What he’s not grasped is that the only way Jesus could avoid persecution and death would be by ceasing to be Who He is, and by stopping what He’s doing.
Why is Jesus as He is, why is He doing what He’s doing? The answer is, because He’s listening to what His heavenly Father is telling Him to do. So, when Peter says, “bad things mustn’t happen to you” he’s actually saying, without realizing it, “stop listening to what God is saying to you.” No wonder Jesus’s response is so forthright, because He knows that should He ever stop listening to what God is telling Him, should He ever stop walking the way God is guiding Him, then His mission is finished. But there’s another reason for Jesus’s rebuke to Peter. He knows that Peter is a charismatic personality, someone who can be a future leader of Christian believers. But charismatic leaders can be dangerous, because if they go wrong, they will lead people astray. That’s why Peter must be put right. He needs to learn that Jesus’s overwhelming concern is listening to the will of His Heavenly Father.
This is where we come in. Jesus sets the pattern His disciples are meant to follow. His way is to ask “what does my Father in heaven want me to do and to be,” so that is the question which we’re meant to ask ourselves. “What might God have in mind for me? What might God be saying to me about my life and my work?”
We’re invited to ask, “how can I best do what God wishes? Is it by doing this job, or that one? Is it by accepting the challenge of raising a family? Is it by writing, or through music, or by being a computer expert, or by accepting patiently the trials of ill health or old age? Is it even, God help me, by being a priest?” The answers we give to the question will be different, because we’re different and God works with us on an individual basis. But we’re all called to keep asking, “can I see what I’m doing as an offering of my life and my abilities to God? Am I attempting to listen to what God wishes for me?”
If we’re trying to listen to God and to live in harmony with His wishes for us, to do the things which only we can do for God, then we will have the inner assurance that we’re living rightly, though that doesn’t guarantee us a comfortable journey, as Our Lord Jesus Christ shows us.
As Christians, we’re first and foremost a community bound together by baptism into Christ, a family which can welcome everyone who seeks God through Jesus. That’s what Peter eventually came to see. But we have to be a listening community, listening to each other, but above all listening to what God is saying. Sometimes it’s not an easy job hearing God accurately, but the Church always goes seriously wrong when it stops listening to God’s voice and instead listens to its own voice. We must listen to each other, listen to the great Christians who were here before us, but above all keep trying to listen to God, Who may not always say what we expect to hear.
When we come to the altar to receive the living presence of Our Lord in this sacrament of Holy Communion, it’s a good prayer to say, “Lord, help me to receive You, and help me then to listen to You.”