Gospel Reflection – 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
“Get behind me Satan, you are not thinking as God does.” This rebuke surely shook St. Peter, and probably shakes us to hear as well in the Gospel today. Peter’s reaction to Christ’s upcoming Passion, Death, and Resurrection, “God forbid Lord,” is clearly far removed from Christ’s vision, enough that for that moment, Peter has become Christ’s opposite. How does Peter see Christ’s coming Passion? On the one hand, his reaction is a naturally good one: he does not want his friend to die. On the other, perhaps there is also the hidden desire he has for a certain kind of triumph for Jesus, and then for His friends. It is certainly possible that he is hoping for the Lord to conquer in an Earthly manner, so that he, Peter, can receive all the rewards for discipleship that the Lord has offered him. One way or another, whether he is thinking nobly or selfishly, Peter is thinking in an earthbound, temporal, and human fashion. All of the things for which Peter hopes are the sort of things that happen in time, and which can be accomplished, it would seem, by natural human effort. In Peter’s vision, one of earthly success, of survival, prosperity, honor, and power, the grace of God would serve only in a helping role, simply bringing about these human things more quickly and easily. God’s action, according to this vision, would not change the desired good result, but only help it along. In the end, success would still consist of human beings possessing human things. Nothing in Peter’s plan for the future points to or ends in God Himself. Christ though, has come from the Father and is returning to the Father. His desire is to draw all people to Himself, heal them from sin, and bring them into the Father’s house, to live God’s life with Him, to share the glory He had before the beginning of the world, and know a peace that passes all understanding. Christ’s mission and desire does not require any earthly success, in a certain success, and the grace of God is not just a help, but actually the goal itself. The only thing that matters in this supernatural outlook is whether or not souls come close to Christ for healing, salvation, and glorification. Everything has value only insofar as it assists this goal, and not even our life is this world is worth as much as this eternal end. The question for us, of course, is which vision we possess. Do we value supernatural things and eternal victory over human success or not? Do we see the Lord’s life, grace, as simply something that can help us to achieve our goals here on earth, or do we see it as the actual goal of our life? Do we, with Peter, struggle between expectations, plans, and disappointments, or do we hand our minds and hearts over to Christ, willing to endure all things in order to receive what He desires to give us? Do we hold on to our life in this world, and so risk losing heaven, or do we hold on to eternal hope, even at the cost of our life? Only one success is lasting. Only one thing is necessary. The Lord will give us the strength to choose well, if we only ask Him.
Fr. Joseph Rampino