All of us have experienced strained relationships. Be it with a spouse or child, a teacher or a student, a co-worker or God, our relationships are vulnerable to tensions, stresses, yes, strains. Such is human nature. How we deal with the situation is of paramount importance.
Jesus and Peter! “Get behind me, Satan!” Jesus’ rebuke of Peter must have caused considerable uneasiness in the soul of this misguided disciple. Peter was of good will if not of sound judgment. When informed that suffering and a violent death awaited Jesus, Peter protested. Instead of supporting the Lord in the doing of the Father’s will, Peter was concerned with Jesus’ physical well-being. Misunderstanding and misinterpretation cause relationships to be strained.
We know the rest of the story. Peter would go on to be chosen as the leader of the faith and would himself become a martyr. There would be times that his relationship with Paul would be strained, but that was all a part of the limitations of the human condition. In the end, Peter experienced the peace of Christ that surmounts our frail condition.
Jeremiah and God! Talk about strained relationships. From the beginning, Jeremiah seemed to be at odds with God. When called by God, Jeremiah protested that he was too young and lacked eloquence. More, he loved tending the land and found no consolation in being thrown into the political arena. Yet, he said yes. But then, as he entered more deeply into his prophetic task, he experienced mockery, scorn, derision and reproach (sounds rather similar to Jesus’ ministry). In being asked to deliver a tough message to his culture, Jeremiah was tempted not to speak for God or mention God’s name. But then the message blazed within and had to be proclaimed.
St. Thomas Aquinas calls grace, “friendship with God” (amacitia Dei). Friendship as well, as we know, is not all peaches and cream. God considered Jeremiah a friend and asked him to do the tough thing of claiming the truth. The price that Jeremiah had to pay for doing this was high. Despite the stress and strain, he did it and the rocky friendship continued. We know from Jeremiah’s other messages there was much consolation as well.
Nothing is more important than relationships. Nothing is more difficult than living in peace with God, others and ourself.
Questions for reflection
1. What are the strained relationships in your life?
2. How do you handle stress? What role does prayer play?
3. How do we walk the path of peace?
Bishop Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.