On this Twenty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM directs us to pray with a Franciscan perspective. The reflection and questions are edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here: Franciscan Gospel Reflections August 30 2020. Excerpts are from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner. (Assisi images – Sister Kathleen Murphy)
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.
In the gospel text from last week, Peter stated that he believed that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus responded to Peter by telling him that he was blessed, and that his heavenly Father had been the source of that revelation. That Gospel ended with Jesus strictly ordering the disciples not tell anyone that he was the Messiah. This Sunday’s gospel text follows immediately after that text.
In this gospel, Jesus was teaching the disciples that he was not the kind of Messiah that most people were expecting. In verse 21 he makes it clear that he believes he will suffer, die, and be raised from the dead, and that the religious leaders of the day would be involved. These events would take place in Jerusalem, the center of both religious and civil authority for Jews. The religious leaders mentioned were from the Sanhedrin, the highest court in the Jewish nation. This body of leaders had permission from Rome to function as a religious authority. Matthew is implying that Jesus was a threat to Rome’s civil order and the Jewish religious order of the day. In their culture it would have been almost impossible for Jesus and the disciples not to have heard rumors of the plot against Jesus.
The culture and the lived reality of day focused on the present. People of the day did not think in terms of the future and the world of possibilities. A pregnant woman might think about the birth of her child. A farmer may plan for the harvest of a crop that had already begun to grow. But things like insurance and how to safely cast a ballot would not have entered their imagination. Even Jesus, when he spoke about the coming of the Kingdom of God, sounded like it had already begun to take place and would come into its fullness very soon. So here, when Jesus was speaking of his future fate in Jerusalem, he was speaking as a person with same understanding of the future as the people of his day.
The short dialogue between Peter and Jesus also should be understood from the culture of the day. While Jesus and the disciples would have been aware that the religious authorities were trying to discredit Jesus, and even considering his death, Peter likely clung to some belief that as the Messiah, God would not permit any harm to happen to Jesus. When Peter expressed his faith and trust in God, Jesus responded to him as one who would have him abandon his faith and hope in God. Jesus for his part found honor in being faithful to the will of God. Salvation history was filled with men and women who had endured great suffering and even death in their service of the will of God. Jesus’ own cousin, John the Baptist, had given his life rather than be untrue to what he believed God was asking of him. Both Peter and Jesus are acting as men of faith and great honor for the people for whom Matthew writes.
1. Are there areas of your own life where you accept pain, suffering, and adversity as just being part of life?
2. Do you know people whose primary mode of living seems to be “avoid all pain at all cost?”
3. Do you ever find that you are acting out of a hope that doing good and loving God will lead to a tranquil and pleasant life?
4. Have you ever discovered that your life was unfolding in way that you did not expect?
5. How do you understand God’s role in the unfolding of your life?
6. If you were one of the disciples, what would you hear Peter trying to say when he tells Jesus, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you?”
7. What might Peter be thinking when Jesus responds, “Get behind me, Satan!…?”
8. Can you take some time now to talk with God about how God is present in the unfolding of your life, or your questions about the pain and suffering you encounter in daily life?