Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. ‘Heaven preserve you, Lord;’ he said ‘this must not happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’
Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it. What, then, will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life? Or what has a man to offer in exchange for his life?
‘For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and, when he does, he will reward each one according to his behaviour.’
Gospel for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time.
How understandable it is that Peter should wish to shield Jesus from the cruelty and hurt that others will wish to impose on him. How understandable and yet – as Jesus makes crystal clear – how wrong.
There are some experiences that we have to be prepared to, as it were, stand aside and let things happen….
Of course, when push first comes to shove, Peter does not only stand aside but abandons his friend and Master. Yet what a precious lesson he learns from that experience too.
When the darkness of evil and sin seems to envelop and overwhelm, it is hard to predict how we might react. However what Jesus teaches us is that the way forward is assured when we maintain our communion with God, with him.
Sculpture. Sagrada Familia, Barcelona. (c) 2003, Allen Morris.