Daily Reflection
August 31st, 2008

Larry Gillick, S.J.

Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
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It has been brought to my attention that I write often about praying with something rather than praying for something. What is the difference?

I could pray for a successful phone call. I could pray as well with my worries and fears concerning the call. I could pray with my need for success and perhaps with the memories of past successes and/or failures. Praying for something is not bad spirituality either. It is asking and that is a scripturally-based prayer form.

To pray with means that there is something really present and I am seeking the grace, call, or reminder there-in contained. I assume that God is constantly presenting us with persons, events, and things of which we are not and cannot always be aware or receptive.

As is heard often on campus here, “So what’s up?” As we prepare for the next Eucharist, what is going on or going down, or passing over us? There’s prayer available in “them-thar hills.” We can pray only with what is true and that includes the truth that we would like our present truth to be different and we can pray with that. We bring our truths to the Eucharist to be met and blessed by the truth of Jesus’ saving love.


In the previous chapter to the one from which our First Reading comes, Jeremiah has broken a pottery jug as a symbol of what God is going to do with the kingdom of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Then Jeremiah denounces directly the kings and leaders of Israel and how they have profaned the temple with images of Baal and have conducted impure offerings in that most sacred place.

Pashhur, the palace provost, had had enough of Jeremiah’s insulting words and has Jeremiah put in stocks, hoping this would quiet this street-preaching prophet. The next day he is released and lets Pashhur hear even a more devastating blast about him personally and all his friends who are heading with the rest of the people into exile from their holy and promised land. There is a little break, a kind of retirement as his words echo through the palace area. What we hear are a few verses of self-pitying and regret. It is similar to when you might, in a temporary moment of anger, say something true, yet hurtful, and then you listen to what you just said and wish you hadn’t.

Jeremiah says his truth, he feels he got taken in by God’s call and he let God do that and now he regrets the whole relationship from its beginning. This inner-dialogue continues. He knows what he has been saying does come from God, but it has brought him great and serious unpopularity. He has been doing what is in him to do and though he wishes it were otherwise, he has stayed faithful.

He reflects that he sometimes feels the urge never to mention anything in God’s name ever again. Within this vortex, he does know that fears and insults could not dampen the fire he feels from the prophetic word he has ingested. He feels imprisoned by his calling. Woe is he.

In last Sunday’s Gospel we heard the great profession by Peter that Jesus is the Christ and the “Son of God.” He spoke for himself and for the other disciples. What Peter didn’t realize is that his profession was also a commitment. What we hear in today’s Gospel has to do with Jesus’ fidelity to His being the Christ and the Son of God, as well as the first calling of the disciples to their living out their fidelity to their name, their call.

Jesus apparently begins indicating slowly the radical dimensions of His being Messiah. They get the picture that He must go up to Jerusalem, (the name literally means House of Peace), and face the music of His dignity and destiny. He is to suffer because of His mission, be killed because of His message, and be raised because of His obedience. Peter, whom we saw affirm Jesus as Messiah, now tries to prevent the mission’s final act of love and fidelity.

Peter, the Rock, now becomes Peter the block. Jesus says that He is going with or without His followers. Jesus tells Peter that he is still thinking totally according to his own human ways and there is something more than humanity here.

The Gospel for today ends with Jesus’ making more clear to the disciples what it means to think differently from the “human” way. Discipleship means an exchange of expectations. Finding or grasping switches to losing and surrendering. Gaining real life which will endure for eternity is gained by letting go as ultimately important all those things which will last for a blink or two.

Last month, (July 27) we heard the parables about the pearl of “great price” and the “Treasure in a field”. It all is similar to the TV show, “Deal or No Deal”. The challenge of faith in Jesus always is about the tension between what we can gain, grasp, and protect, or letting go of that and trusting in the unknown, ungrasped, and unprotected. In the same week, I witnessed a young couple’s marriage vows, a married couple’s struggling through the growing-pains of little children, and the painful dissolving of a couple’s covenantal union. The “deal” is that we are human and we do think like humans and as such, well, we don’t like pain, frustration of expectations, and disappointment. This is true for the married state, the religious-life state, and the single state of relating with God. As with the disciples, we are all constantly in the shared state of conversion. We can live, thinking humanly, that we are there already, the “deal” has been settled. Whatever state we find ourselves in, we are most peaceful when we admit we are simultaneously in confusion and commitment. The deal is that commitment will result in our heading for the “House of Peace” where to gain that peace, there will be dyings and ultimately risings. We too are shown slowly the invitation and its human aspects and each eventually makes and lives the “deal”.

“O Lord, how great is the depth of the kindness which you have shown to those who love you.” Ps. 32, 20

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