The great 16th century Spanish Mystic, St Teresa of Avila, who is reputed to have once said 'from silly devotions and sour-faced saints, O Lord deliver us', was once making an important journey when she fell off her donkey and injured her leg.
"Lord," she said, "you couldn't have picked a worse time for this to happen. Why would you let this happen?" And the response she heard in prayer was, "That is how I treat my friends." Teresa answered, "And that is why you have so few of them!"
Humorously, St Teresa of Avila teaches us an important lesson about trustful abandonment to God no matter what happens and such is the message of the scriptures many of us will hear, as we worship God this Sunday: God demands everything of us. No half measures. Everything.
St Paul, writing to the Romans, begs us to offer our 'living bodies as a holy sacrifice, truly pleasing to God' (Rms. 12:1-2). We will hear the complaint of the prophet Jeremiah who is given a very difficult ministry and is become the butt of everyone's joke and insult; and yet he is unable to resist the call of God experienced as a fire in his heart and bones (Jeremiah 20:7-9).
In the Gospel passage this Sunday, Peter famously misses the entire point of Jesus's mission and the cost of loving and serving him. He is rebuked and the Lord calls us all to 'take up your cross and follow Me' (Matthew 16:21-27).
Peter, formerly Simon, still has much to learn and the Lord is patient with him and the others disciples.
And he is patient also with us. In demanding the offering of our entire selves, Jesus equips us by giving us some share in his own love.
This is the fire Jeremiah felt and, as it burns up pride and selfishness, it energises and compels us onwards (II Corinthians 5:14), to offer ourselves joyfully to God, to belong entirely to him and to love him unreservedly, in total surrender and with utter confidence. Such is the perfect love to which we aspire that casts out all fear (I Jn. 4:18); and, as St Teresa of Avila shows, makes us good humoured saints.