Just a word… Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time…

Just a word… Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time… August 30, 2020

“Get behind me, Satan… you are an obstacle to me.” The Lord’s words to Peter are shocking, especially in light of last week’s Gospel where Jesus declared Peter to be his rock… the one who was supposed to be the foundation has become a stumbling block, seemingly overnight. And why? Jesus accuses Peter of thinking as human beings do, and not as God does. Okay, but what exactly does that mean? After all, Peter is a human being, how is he supposed to think?

A closer look however, reveals that Peter has been afforded the privilege of accompanying Jesus on his travels and has witnessed the power of his words and deeds. Peter has recognized Jesus as the Messiah and has observed how Jesus upsets the powers that be, threatening the religious establishment by his very existence. Peter must know at some level that those courageous persons who dare to challenge the status quo frequently become the victims of those who desire to protect it. Just look at Jeremiah in the first reading, who although he rails at God at his treatment by the people, he is bound to continue his preaching by his very nature. He suffers more by denying who he is, and what his mission is. So it will be for Jesus, who cannot deny himself or his mission.

Jesus’ understanding of his destiny was so outside Peter’s way of thinking. Jesus heard and responded to a higher calling, attuned as he was to the deeper life of God. Jesus was more concerned about the lives and destiny of others than of his own human life. Perhaps the harsh words spoken to Peter were the Lord’s way of provoking Peter into opening his mind and heart to move from the human tendency to avoid suffering at all costs, to leaning into his life and mission.

Perhaps this gospel can remind us that we too are called to look beyond the appearances in life to the substance; to embrace a new way of thinking that imagines what our lives and the world would look like, and be, if we began to think critically about the values of the kingdom when we make decisions. After all, if the kingdom is among us, and the kingdom is within us, who are we to deny who we are and the mission we have been given.

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