Who gets to write your life story? This is the question our readings pose today. The freedom to make meaning out of our existence is one of the deepest cravings of the soul. This freedom, according to Viktor Frankl, is the essence of life itself.
‘Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.’ (Mt 16:25)
What life story are you writing?
How much of your story have you surrendered to God?
That freedom is a gift from God. We are truly free only when we seek from God the way to live it out. When we follow God’s dream for us, we will definitely encounter struggles, but we will also find joy, and our life story will become a means for others to find freedom.
This is the lesson of our first reading and our Gospel this week. Jeremiah is famous for resisting God’s call when it first came to him: “I am too young!” He eventually surrendered his life to God, but his message aroused immediate hostility. Jeremiah complains of this to God in our first reading today, saying, “You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped.” His passion for serving God outweighed even the taunts of family and friends: “It becomes like a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones.” And this is not the end of his story. In his own day, supporters of his ministry preserved his words and kept them alive during a time of national disaster. Long after his death, Jeremiah’s prophecies became a blueprint for a reborn Judaism that served God with vigor. He allowed God to write his life story, and the result was freedom for a nation not yet born.
Jesus speaks of the same surrender in the Gospel today. When we try to control our life story, we actually lose our freedom. When we obsess over trivia, we lose sight of the richness of our existence. The stories of such lives are cluttered with petty grudges, vain indulgences and small-potato dreams.
It can be just as dangerous to avoid risk. This was Peter’s mistake today. Jesus’ commitment to nonviolence closed off most of the avenues by which he could evade the rising hostility to his mission. He knew that his mission would most likely end with his death as a criminal. He had surrendered completely into the hands of his Father, who had composed for his Son the greatest story ever made of a human life. Jesus trusted in the Father’s wisdom, but Peter tried to grab the pen out of the Father’s hands and write an ending he thought more suitable. Jesus’ response was clear, “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
In our second reading, St. Paul counsels, “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” If we surrender our lives to the author of life itself, we can break free of the ego-driven trivia and fear that consume so many of our days. When God writes our life story, though we may encounter struggles as Jesus and Jeremiah did, we will likewise discover the joy of sharing God’s dreams and making our lives beacons of freedom.