A burning fire shut up in my bones … . Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Just last Sunday, Peter was affirmed for his proclamation of Jesus as Messiah and received the commission to be the rock upon which the Church will be built.
Today’s account looks a little different. Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you are thinking not as God does, but as humans do. Jesus was not impressed with Peter’s reaction to Jesus’ prophecy of what he would face in Jerusalem.
That shift from being the rock to being a scandal, a stone in the path, shows that Peter still ails to fully comprehend the truth about Jesus. It’s because of that spiritual journey in Peter that I suggested that it could be profitable to spend a directed retreat with his faith development.
The Prophet Jeremiah lived through one of the most troubled periods of the ancient Near East, including the downfall of the kingdom of Judah. It would have been a challenging time to be a prophet.
He stands out above the other prophetic figures of that time. He was noted for his sensitivity to Yahweh’s love for his people and his profound understanding of the people’s duty toward Yahweh through the ties of the covenant.
Jeremiah was direct and unwavering in denouncing religious deviation from Yahwism. Today’s excerpt has him almost expressing regret for his call to be a prophet.
He speaks to God in a bold way. You have enticed (seduced) me, and I was enticed; you have overpowered me, and you have prevailed. He bemoans being a laughingstock, being the source of mockery each time he utters the word of God.
Jeremiah decided that I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name. But then he realizes that there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.
Jeremiah knows that he must continue to speak the truth, even if he suffers for that. His image of a burning fire refers directly to the Old Testament notion of Yahweh as a consuming fire. Jeremiah’s inspiration is directly from God.
It’s a similar notion behind Jesus’ rebuke of Peter. Jesus just knew that he had to face what Jerusalem meant. Peter was downplaying this and avoiding Jesus’ obedience to his mission.
Peter developed and the man we see in the Acts of the Apostles is untiring in his zeal for the Gospel. In that book we find many accounts of Peter and Paul’s ministry in the early Christian community. I think that he was offering his own burning fire, as was Paul.
The excerpt from his Letter to the Romans alludes to this. He certainly had his share of suffering for the Gospel, including prison. But he urges his readers to present your bodies as a living sacrifice.
The burning fire from Jeremiah, Jesus, Paul and Peter cannot be ignored. There are living women and men who possess that same burning fire, quite often divinely inspired. Those four prophetic figures and teachers struggled to have their message heard.
But they endured and held patiently to the voice of God speaking through them.