Franciscan Friar Fr. Paul Gallagher reflects on the Gospel text for the Twenty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time. If you were one of the disciples listening to Peter and Jesus have this exchange, what would you be feeling? What would you say to either of them? Or would you not say anything? Why?
The content is 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 reflection September 3 2023. 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. Photo: The first photo comes from Holy Spirit Parish, Stevens Point, Wisconsin. This is a welcoming community of faith. A window from St. Ann Chapel Plain, Wisconsin is also found here depicting the crucifixion of Jesus and his faithful disciples Mother Mary, St. John and St. Mary Magadalene. A pilgrimage to this hillside spot is a good hike for the soul.
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 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 one.
In this Gospel Jesus teaches the disciples that he is not the kind of Messiah that most people are expecting. 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 will be involved. These events are to take place in Jerusalem, the center of both religious and civil authority for Jews of their day. The religious leaders he 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 implies that Jesus was regarded as a threat to both Rome’s civil order and the Jewish religious order. In their culture, it would have been almost impossible for Jesus and the disciples not to have heard rumors of the plotting 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 future life or home 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 the same understanding of the future as the people of his day.
The short dialogue between Peter and Jesus should also 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 him. Peter expresses his faith and trust in God. Jesus for his part is being faithful to the will of God. In his view, Peter’s hope that he does not have to endure suffering and death is an obstacle to what Jesus has come to believe is God’s desire for him. Salvation history is filled with men and women who 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.
- Are there areas of your own life where you have accepted pain, suffering, and adversity as just being part of life?
- Do you know people whose primary mode of living seems to be “avoid all pain at all cost?”
- Do you ever act out of a hope that doing good and following the Ten Commandments will lead to a tranquil and pleasant life?
- Have you ever discovered that your life was unfolding in ways that you did not expect?
- How do you understand God’s role in the unfolding of your life?
- What do you hear Peter trying to say when he tells Jesus, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you?”
- If you were one of the disciples listening to Peter and Jesus have this exchange, what would you be feeling? What would you say to either of them? Or would you not say anything? Why?
- Can you take some time now to talk with God about this exchange between Jesus and Peter, or Jesus’ instruction to the disciples that they too must pick up their cross, or something else that arose for you personally from this Gospel?