As my son begins middle school this month I’m keenly aware of the new academic year. Responses to his question “Why do I have to go to school?” race through my mind. I dislike when I hear myself resort to telling him, “It’s the law.” I prefer to point out in kid-speak the potential to broaden and refine his God-given assets.
Disney channel shows, Pokemon, Lego bricks and Erin Hunter’s “Warriors” series have let my son reset from the grind of fifth grade. I, however, agree with the words of Pope Francis in a July interview with the Argentine publication Viva: “Stagnant water becomes putrid.” The world would not be a better place if my son continued to major solely in his summer interests. Instead, he will benefit from the challenge of the new academic year. Exposure to more than the areas of his current interests will help him become well-rounded and prepared for future opportunities.
Paul’s request in this Sunday’s second reading similarly challenges us to “be transformed by the renewing of [our] minds …” (Romans 12:2). All of us can benefit from ongoing personal growth. Jesus’ disciples faced one of those growth moments in this week’s Gospel reading from Matthew 16:13-20. Jesus asks, “Who do people say that I am?” Then he makes it more personal, asking, “Who do you say that I am?” Speaking his own belief, Peter responds, “You are the Messiah, Son of the living God.”
Have you practiced your answer lately? Who do you say that Jesus is? What informs this belief?
Other people will choose my son’s academic coursework this year. Sometimes the personal growth work people do is dictated by responsiveness to the externals. Shiphrah and Puah, the heroines of Exodus 1:15-22, courageously retort to the Egyptian Pharaoh’s summons. Other times the personal growth work comes from pausing long enough to do inner reflective work. Are there any feelings you need to tend to? Do you have reoccuring negative thoughts? Are there any goals worth setting or adjusting? What, if anything, have you been avoiding? Why?
When the questions before us feel daunting, let us remember that we can turn to the One who dealt well with the Hebrew midwives. When we want to dodge the personal growth work ahead of us, I hope we choose to call upon the One who gave Peter the keys to heaven. “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 124:8).
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers