MEMORIAL OF SAINT JOHN VIANNEY, PRIEST
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
Psalm 51:10-13, 16-17
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.
For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
The Lord is telling us through the prophet Jeremiah that the day is coming when God’s people will have the law of God written upon their hearts. They will no longer need to have God’s law taught to them because they will instinctively know it. As God’s people, we need to teach ourselves how to listen to the voice of God speaking within us. But how do we know the difference between God’s voice and our own internal monologue? How can we know that it is truly God’s voice?
All humans know they are not perfect. Even in the times when we want to pretend that we are, deep down, we all know our limits and our fallibility. How are we supposed to trust what is in our hearts when our hearts can so easily be lead astray? Jesus tells us in the Gospel how we are supposed to sort through the noise and hear his voice. When Simon Peter denies the cross, Jesus corrects him harshly. He tells him he is not thinking as God does, but as human beings do. If we want to hear God’s voice over our own, if we want to think as God does and not as human beings do, if we want to know the law of God as it is written on our hearts, then we must embrace the cross.
How do we embrace the cross in our lives? We must re-echo the words of King David in psalm 51, asking God to create a clean heart in us. If we want to embrace the cross, we have to come, contrite and humble, before God. We must accept that we cannot make ourselves perfect, and that only God can forgive our many sins. We must acknowledge that we cannot make up for our sins in this life, but that only Jesus on the cross can wipe our sins away. This humility, this contrition, this total contradiction of the hubris of human nature is one of the best ways to take up our cross and follow Jesus. To accept his gift humbly and to depend on him for our formation is how we learn to hear his voice in our hearts. May God grant us the grace to turn to him in contrition and humility, may he lend us the grace to embrace the cross, and may he allow us to hear him in the depths of our hearts.