Friday, 1 September 2017

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year A

Jeremiah 20:7-9; Romans 12:1-2; Matthew 16:21-27

Last week Jesus posed a question which Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, answered correctly. This week, when Jesus makes clear to his disciples God’s will for him, Peter stupidly takes that most dangerous and not-to-be-recommended initiative – he proposes an alternative to God’s will.

Why would Peter do such a silly thing? What was his motive? How could he bring himself to think he could correct the Lord and improve on God's plan? What prompted him?

Jesus himself gives the answer when he rebukes Peter; he tells him it's: the way you think.

The way we think determines absolutely everything we do and don’t do; what we like and what we dislike; what we run away from and what we are prepared to die for. And so, without fear of contradiction I can state categorically that the way we think is just about the most important thing in life to get right.

But let's go back to Peter. What precisely was wrong with his way of thinking? He had heard Jesus was to die a horrible death at the hands of his enemies and he, like most caring, loving, charitable people wanted to spare his friend this calamity.

Heaven preserve you, Lord ... this must not happen to you, Peter had said - and the stress, the emphasis, would have been heavily on the word - you. He had lost sight of the divine he had only just now affirmed and, for one fatal moment, his horizon was narrowed to human sentiment - a most common mistake.

Why, for example, do so many mothers counsel their pregnant teenage daughters to have an abortion? Is it not because they see in their mind's eye the difficulties their daughters will undergo as single parents; the career opportunities they will have to forego; the disadvantage they will suffer in finding a suitable partner in life? Mothers want good things for their children and when faced with these imagined bleak prospects will often lose sight of the larger picture and see only the immediate needs of their child - will see only the you'Heaven preserve you, daughter ... this must not happen to you!'

Of course, we could multiply examples. Parents of homosexually active children; children of elderly parents who are suffering; Catholics who see the misbehaviour of their bishops and priests; and countless other human situations. All of the solutions we apply to them depend on our 'way of thinking' and if it is a human way of thinking we will decide in favour of the immediate human circumstances. The here-and-now you becomes more important than the invisible God.
  • 'How could I tell my lesbian daughter that she cannot try to find happiness with her partner?'
  • 'How can I allow my mother to go on suffering when I can so easily stop it.'
  • 'How can I be part of an institution that has sinners in its leadership?'
The human way of thinking leaves God out every time. It sees only with the human eye and decides only according to human logic.

My mother is suffering.
Suffering is not good.
The loving thing to do is to end the suffering.

As Jesus says: the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.

When we sideline the divine we are left with nothing but the impoverishment of the merely human. This is all too demonstrably a terrible catastrophe for humankind. Among other things, it is the reason for the Global Economic Collapse; for the violence in the world's trouble spots; for the exploitation of women and children; for pollution of the environment; and for the breakdown of marriage.

Peter would have been stung by his Master's rebuke. It was probably not the first nor would it be the last. But eventually he got on the Lord's wavelength. He exchanged his human way of thinking for the divine way and proved he had grasped the lesson by his death on his own cross.

Let us follow in his footsteps.

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