Sunday, August 28, 2011

Be Transformed

Today we hear something interesting from St. Paul "be transformed by the renewal of your mind. For St. Paul this renewal is something that takes place even after our initial conversion.

This passage from the letter to the Romans takes place in the 12 chapter. Most scripture scholars call this passage the bridge between the theology section of the early part of the letter and the moral teaching found in the later part of the letter. In other words, even those who have accepted Christ need to be continually renewed and transformed by this renewal of our minds. This putting on the mind of Christ becomes essential part of our lives, and it leads to our moral living: faith turns into action. St. Paul tells us that this transformation will allow us to know the will of God. Isn't that what we all want?

We see a perfect example of this in the Gospel today. Today's gospel passage begins where we left off last week. Last week Saint Peter gave his great proclamation of faith. Jesus asked Peter, "who do you say that I am?" Peter responds "you are the Christ the son of the living God." This proclamation of faith by Peter changes his identity. Simon becomes Peter. Peter becomes a Christian, the rock of the Church. When we make that proclamation of faith that's how we become Christian, we echo the words of Saint Peter "you are the Christ the son of the living God."

But to acknowledge Christ as Lord is not the end of the Christian story, in fact it is only the beginning. This should fill us with some hope. Look at Saint Peter, he just said you are the Christ the son of the living God. Today he opposes the Lord and is called Satan. Peter still needed to learn, he still needed to grow. Peter needed to be renewed by the transformation of his mind. Jesus truly is the Christ, the son of God. But, as he tells us today, he is the Christ will suffer, the Christ who will die, the Christ who came to offer his life for all of us. Peter had some different Christ in mind. His idea of Christ needed to be transformed, needed to be renewed. The same is true for us I'm sure.

How do we get there, how do we get to this transformation? The second half of our gospel message today tells us how this happens. If you want to follow Jesus, you must pick up your cross and follow him. The cross is the school of transformation. In the cross we find new life. In our sufferings and our trials, we grow closer to Christ. This is the very paradox of Christianity. Life comes through death.

The transformation from death to life is central to the gospel, and should be central to our lives. This explains why life can be hard. Sometimes we feel like Jeremiah. Sometimes we feel like saying you duped me oh Lord and I let myself be duped. Sometimes we feel like I'm abandoning the whole thing, but the last passage from Jeremiah is warm and sweet. The word of God so filled him that it was impossible for him to keep it in: it was a burning fire in his heart. Even during the difficult times of his life, even when being a prophet meant pain and persecution, Jeremiah's love of God kept him going.

Let's return to Peter for just a second, we all hear today that he needed some renewal, transformation. And, we know that he gets it. He becomes a great saint, the leader of the early Church. His transformation will become complete when he meets the risen Jesus. The same is true for us. Today and every time we come to Mass we meet the risen Jesus as he comes to us in the Holy Eucharist. We have in the sacraments all the divine assistance we need to be transformed by the renewal of our mind, so that we may discern the will of God and know what is good and pleasing and perfect.

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