I injured my knee a few years ago while playing soccer in a Manila college campus. I sat at the sidelines, looking at my hurting knee, seeing it swell up so fast, and feeling that throbbing sensation. The words that came out of my mind was typical, “Why this now, Lord Jesus? Why me? This is the last thing that I need right now.” My response showed that I was far from that complete surrender that Jesus asks of us as His disciples. I may have given myself to Him but I was now reluctant to accept the painful and disappointing things that He was offering to me.
We are not fully surrendered to God when we are busy picking and choosing what we like in life and rejecting what is not according to our preference or taste. On the other hand, a fully surrendered soul is one who lovingly accepts everything that comes his way out of love for God.
Mt. 16:21-27 shows us Jesus as the perfectly surrendered person and the one whom the Father has sent to lead us into this complete surrender. He readily gives Himself lovingly to the Father for our salvation and He also lovingly accepts all that the Father offers Him, “He began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” He accepted lovingly the unjust and brutal death as well as the glorious resurrection that His Father offered Him.
Peter had earlier accepted the power of the keys and a new identity as the rock on which Jesus will build His Church. But, like many of us, he is not fully surrendered to Jesus. He is busy picking and choosing what he would accept from God. He would not accept the full plan that the Father was offering to Jesus and to all His disciples because it does not align with his taste and preference for a messiah, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.”
Peter thus rightly earned Jesus’ strong rebuke, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” Jesus even had to repeat this lesson of complete surrender to the Father when Peter tried to save Him by force from being captured in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus freely accepted arrested then even as He had twelve legions of angels at His disposal, “Shall I not drink the cup that my Father has given me?” (Jn 18:11) He accepted every single thing that the Father willed and permitted in His life.
“You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” We know that to see Jesus is to see the Father (Cf. Jn 14:9). Hence to “think as God does” means sharing in Christ’s own complete surrender to the Father, i.e. to offer ourselves in love to Him and to also accept all that He offers us in return. Because we tend to accept only what is pleasurable to our taste, Jesus asks us, “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” This implies that it is supernaturally useless for us to choose and accept only what we like in life.
St. Paul reminds us that it is by the mercy of God made present in Jesus Christ that we can actually hope to offer ourselves to God and receive all that He offers to us, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.” We must refuse to be “conformed to this age” because this world accepts only what is pleasurable and easy to it, judging all things from its own worldly point of view and preferences.
On the contrary, lovingly accepting all that God offers us allows God to embrace us, act in our lives, and fulfill His mysterious purpose in us. This is what fills us with that joy of the Lord that we are made for. This is so because such a life of complete surrender helps us to discern “what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” We cannot grasp what is truly pleasing to God and truly beneficial to us when we are lacking in complete surrender to God.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we have given ourselves to God in Holy Baptism. Why is our surrender to Him incomplete? Why are we settling for earthly joys from only what appeals to our taste when He is inviting us to the eternal satisfying joy of the Lord from accepting all that He offers to us? Didn’t Jesus assure us that we receive Him just by receiving one needy little child in His name (Cf Mk 9:37)? Why then are we petrified to receive all that He offers us in life? Shouldn’t we echo the sentiments of Job, “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?”(Job 2:10)
We see in our world today this refusal to accept all that God offers us. We accept only what is pleasurable, easy, and comfortable and reject what is not any of these things. How many of us have consciously chosen to accept the Covid-19 virus with all its discomforts and inconveniences out of love for God? Are we not more caught up in debating whether the virus is a punishment from God or nature throwing a tantrum? Are we not accepting only the teachings and Commandments of God that we find appealing and blatantly violating the ones that we find uncomfortable and against our taste?
Many Catholics today even pick and choose among the sacraments, trooping out to receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist on Sundays but having little or no love or appreciation for the sacrament of Reconciliation because it goes against our wounded pride. We love to advocate for migrants while we ignore the unborn infants being murdered in their mothers’ womb because it is less fashionable to defend innocent life of the unborn today. We futilely try to be satisfied by passing joy and forsake the joyful hope of full surrender to God by which we belong to Him and accept all that He offers to us.
Jesus Christ, the king of mercy, shares with us in this Eucharist His own attitude of self-offering to the Father and acceptance of all that the Father offers to Him. We can only offer ourselves to the Father and receive all that the Father offers us because Jesus has done so first and invites us to do the same in Him and through Him by His mercy. We can only deny ourselves and accept our crosses in life because, in Him, we too can accept all that the Father offers us in love knowing that it is the path to our own glory too.
Let us look to Mama Mary who offered herself completely to God at the Annunciation, “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord.” She also lovingly accepted all that God offered to her in life – giving birth to Jesus in a manger, fleeing with Him into Egypt to escape the murderous Herod, looking for Him for three days, walking with Him to Calvary, watching Him die on the cross, and patiently waiting for His glorious resurrection.
The womb of Mary and the home at Nazareth are the schools were Jesus learned and was prepared for a life of complete surrender to the Father. We too can enter into Mary’s spiritual womb and learn complete surrender from her so that we can accept all that God offers to us and allow God to embrace and surprise us with His own unending joy.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!