Jesus’ demands are a loving invitation

St Paul in his epistle to the Corinthians (11:14), reminds us that Satan will appear as the “angel of light” to confuse even the most faithful soul.

Sep 01, 2023

Reflecting on our Sunday Readings with Bro Ron Fernandez Sandanasamy

St Paul in his epistle to the Corinthians (11:14), reminds us that Satan will appear as the “angel of light” to confuse even the most faithful soul. Meanwhile, St Ignatius, in his Spiritual Exercises, stated that it is the characteristics of the devil who takes on the appearance of an angel of light, to influence an upright soul starting with good and holy thoughts but towards the end manipulates those innocent souls by enticing them towards evil and cunning intentions.

Hence, it is fair to say the human mind is an active battlefield and continuously engaged in spiritual warfare with the evil one. As we can see in today’s Gospel reading, St Peter, despite his noble intention to protect Jesus, his “beloved master,” suggested a proposal which was contrary to God’s redemptive plan and, as a result, Jesus rebuked him in a very stern tone, “Get behind me, Satan!”

Similarly, in our day-to-day life, we need to be always on alert and consciously examine every thought that “pops up” in our minds before taking ownership and acting on those thoughts.

Every thought needs to be discerned in the spirit of the Gospel message or, in other words, each time a random thought appears, ask yourself, how would Jesus respond to such thoughts or ideas. Call upon the Holy Spirit to guide you, especially in examining the spiritual fruits which could be reaped and also to identify any potential negative consequences if you act on it.

Based on my observation, one of the major confusions in modern society is the lack of discernment of the Spirit. Thus there is a lot of confusion in many areas of human lives. The current generation is prone to own and impulsively act on every single thought that “pops up” in their mind, without distinguishing whether those thoughts are coming from divine inspirations or the evil one.

Besides that, imitating our Lord Jesus Christ in this Gospel, we need to consistently think and act in God’s way. Our Lord puts on a high demand for those who wish to follow Him. He demands that we renounce ourselves, carry our own crosses and follow Him. If those demands are taken out of context, some people might even interpret Jesus as a sadistic, cruel dictator! However, as Christians, we know that Jesus is a loving Lord. “He came so that we may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10).

Thus, reflecting on this passage, together with St Paul’s message to the Romans from today’s second reading in which St Paul called upon his community in Rome to offer their bodies as a living sacrifice pleasing to God, it is very obvious that Jesus wants to free us from our bondage and slavery from the temporal material world, especially addiction to the flesh (sexual misconducts). Jesus demands moral integrity for the wellbeing of an individual, as well as society as whole. “Do to others what you want them to do to you.” (Luke 6:31). Those who have renounced themselves for Jesus would be selfless, prioritise the well-being of others above personal gain, and love everyone unconditionally, thus committed to upholding moral values and acting virtuously even when faced with challenges and temptations for the sake of love of God.

On top of that, Jesus’ assurance “and follow me,” is a very significant affirmation that we are not alone in our “journey.” In fact, Jesus walks before us, clearing the paths, providing support, and ever ready to lend His hand to remove any obstacles that we face, as long as we confidently and humbly seek His assistance. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9). Yes, the Lord is always with us! Just like the pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night which guided the Israelites during their exodus from Egyptian bondage. To quote the youngest Carmelite saint, 19-year-old St Teresa of Andes, “To be in the presence of God is to be in the state of Joy, for Joy is to rejoice in the presence of the beloved.”

Therefore, let us look at Jesus’ request as a loving invitation rather than a demanding order. An invitation to walk on the path of salvation towards our eternal home in heaven. As the saying goes, “life is short, death is certain, eternity is long (forever).” Let us prepare ourselves, so that when the Son of Man comes in glory, we shall be rewarded accordingly. Let us use this little time on Earth to be the “little” Simon of Cyrene to help each other, to lighten our neighbour’s crosses, just as Simon of Cyrene assisted Jesus to carry His cross on the way to Calvary. Let us show more patience, kindness and gentleness towards each other.

God is great, life is great.

(Bro Ron Fernandez Sandanasamy is a first year Theology student at St Peter’s College Major Seminary in Kuching.)

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