30 August 2020
In the gospel today Jesus tries to make it clear to Peter and the disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the Scribes. He was to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day. Peter was horrified at this idea. He, like all the Jews, had an idea that the Messiah would be a man of strength and power and would drive out the enemies of Judaism [in this present time, the Romans]. The idea of a suffering Messiah was incredible, in fact, unthinkable. Peter ‘caught hold’ of Jesus, putting a protective arm around him to try and stop him from following such a suicidal course. Peter’s words indicate this: ‘This must not and cannot happen to you’. And then came the great rebuke of Jesus that makes us catch our breaths – ‘get behind me Satan’. The literal meaning of the word ‘Satan’ is adversary. Peter’s words were not those of God but humans. What Jesus is saying here is that Peter cannot be the one who leads Jesus. It is the other way round. Jesus is the Messiah and therefore the leader and all others are invited to follow him. Jesus’ reaction contains both firmness and welcome. The Lord knows that discipleship involves a process. It takes time to understand and to put into practice.
Maybe we are like Peter at times. We wonder why God allows so much suffering in the world. Why doesn’t he use his power as we think he should? Again a human way of thinking. Sure, we would like to know but as people of faith and humility, we have to bow our heads and accept it. And whether we realise it or not the cross is at the very centre of all our lives. It is easy to say this. But when suffering comes our way – even when we try to lead a good life – we might feel tempted to stop following Jesus. The cross is not just on a wall in a room or in a church, or on a hill on Calvary, it is in all our lives when suffering or tragedy visit us. So it is not too difficult to understand Peter’s reaction.
How will I react when some cross / difficulty comes into my life? Jesus has gone the way before me. He invites me to follow him. I am assured of his help and I also the Holy Spirit to strengthen me.
We must also remember that each moment of our lives does not involve the cross. We could make people depressed if we gave that interpretation. Reading the gospels we know that Jesus stayed in the houses of Peter, Mary and Martha. He certainly enjoyed eating and being with his friends and their families. But when the cross came he didn’t run away from it. And so too – you and I – are invited by Jesus to do the same. Peter had still to come to a full understanding of what following Jesus involved. It was not just only using the words he used last Sunday: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.’ Neither was it the number of miracles or the great popularity Jesus enjoyed earlier on.
But we can deal with the challenges of our life, with God’s help and the strength of our faith. Our own experience then may help us understand what Jesus meant by saying that he would suffer, be put to death, and be raised up on the last day. We need to hear this Good News as well as the rest of his statement about suffering. In fact, we will have many experiences of resurrection, of being raised up in our lives: the birth of a baby or a grandchild; the success of our children at school in spite of many difficulties during their school days and study times; the recovery from a serious accident or health problem etc.
‘Lord Jesus, you invite us to follow you when times are good and enjoyable but also when suffering and difficulties come our way. You have walked the path ahead of us. You know our human struggles and are very patient with us when we fail. Give us your powerful Holy Spirit to help us to be faithful to the end.’
Click on the play button below to listen to an alternative homily from Fr Tom Casey SMA