"You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped..." (Jeremiah 20:7)
There are days where it feels that we are the only Christians on the face of the earth. We feel that we have given so much to our faith and to our God and end up with frustration, bewilderment, and yes, sometimes even anger at God. Nobody listens. It is lonely being a Catholic out in the world. It is very easy in here within the sanctuary of our church, but out there it's a different story. That is why the first reading and the plight of Jeremiah touches us so deeply. We all have had a crisis of faith where we look up to the heavens and wonder where God is. Jeremiah was at his wits end when he accuses God of tricking him into this life of prophecy which made him the object of laughter: "All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me (v. 8)." We have felt this way in the past. We give of ourselves to God and to his service, and we realize that this life is not easy.
The disciples must have realized this as well in today's Gospel. In a continuation of last week's gospel, the disciples go from hearing Peter's confession about who Jesus really is to hearing that Jesus had to suffer and die. Peter wants none of this and goes from being called "the Rock" a few verses earlier to being called Satan because he is thinking like human beings do and not thinking like God. (Talk about being humbled quickly after being given the keys to the Kingdom.) The disciples must have thought that life with Jesus was going to be easy. They could not see the martyrdom that each of them, save one, would eventually endure for the sake of the Kingdom. They did not realize that following Christ involves taking up our cross, denying ourselves and following him. It entails laying down our life for our God and our faith.
Of course, this is not easy, but there are moments of triumph and glory along the way. The disciples received in last week's Gospel an incredible truth that had to be shared: Jesus is the Messiah! When they became witnesses of the resurrection, they had to shout it from the rooftops. Yes, it landed them in prison, but they joyfully accepted the challenges of proclaiming the Gospel. Do we embrace this challenge with the same joy? Sure we may complain at times like Jeremiah, but even in his lament, the prophet resigns himself to the fact that he cannot help but speak the truth even if he feels like never uttering the name of God again. There is some beautiful imagery here at the end of the first reading: "I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it." We cannot hold the beauties of our faith in our hearts because they are meant to be shared. Even though we may be inclined to push God away in moments of trial, we constantly return to Him because our hearts long for him. Today, if it weren't a Sunday, we would be celebrating the feast of St. Augustine who famously said on the very first page of his Confessions: "our heart is restless, until it rests in Thee."
So yes, there will be days when we will feel like Jeremiah, duped or tricked by God, but He has a plan for us. It may feel lonely at times to live this life of faith, but Pope Benedict XVI assured a million and a half young people in Madrid last week that we are not alone in this journey of faith. There are brothers and sisters sitting around you that will help you endure the moments of trails and rejoice with you in the moments of triumph. Jeremiah goes on to say later on in the same chapter that God will be his champion. He will never abandon us. He knows the way. All we have to do is trust in His will, lay down our lives, take up our cross, and follow Him.