Just Gospel September: Now is the Time for Pope Francis’ Intention for Parishes

This September 2017, Franciscan Sister Kathleen Murphy  begins another Just Gospel Series focusing on Pope Francis’ monthly intentions, Tom Kendzia’s song Now is the Time and Core Values of the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity.

“Now is the time!”  With this issue of the Monthly Memo we begin a new series of reflections in the sphere of Social Justice.  Maybe you remember times when you were a child and your mom or big sister braided your hair.  This year our reflections will be the product of some braiding.  We hope to weave in some lyrics to the song Now Is the Time by Tom Kendzia along with Pope Francis’ prayer intentions for each month and finish with the strand of some concepts from the Core Values articulated as a result of our 2013 Chapter.  Our goal is to bring the reality of social justice issues into our daily living and praying.  So, NOW is the time, let us begin!

“…Take hold of us, our hearts, our minds, our whole being.  Make us your own, now is the time…” These words from the song Now is the Time, are a good way to launch our considerations.  Our times call for actions and prayers that aim for a more just and peaceful world community.

Pope Francis’ intention for this month is That our parishes, animated by a missionary spirit, may be places where faith is communicated and charity is seen.  This petition is easily woven together with the lyrics of our theme song.

Unless God takes hold of our hearts, there can be no missionary spirit.  The call to go out and evangelize must originate in the faithful heart.  Our song also asks God to take our minds. Pope Francis prays for parishes and communities where faith is communicated.  We are thus challenged to gain, reflect on and share a clear and true version of our Catholic Faith.  This is the work of a mind given over to God.  Finally our song asks God to take our whole being and make us His own.  This complete giving over to God results in charity which is visible and viable.


Franciscan Sister a Nurse and Advocate for Pro Life

Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Community Director Sister Natalie Binversie shares moments in the life of Sister Karen Anne Berger, a nurse with a deep-hearted interest in pro life concerns. To read full account, click here: Francisan Sister Karen Anne Reflection

Catherine had reddish hair and fair skin which didn’t allow her to stay out in the sun very long.  She had to always stay under a shelter when outside.  This made a nursing profession appealing to her, since she would have an inside job.  Doctor Carey, the Reedsville physician, knew of Catherine’s desire to be a nurse and told her about the nursing school at Holy Family Hospital in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, which was not too expensive.  She purchased three white nurses’ uniforms for $25.00 and entered the nursing program.  She graduated in 1939 from Holy Family School of Nursing and continued working as a nurse at Holy Family Hospital for three years.

In 1942 many of the nursing school graduates were enlisting in the Service to use their talents for the good of the Country.  Holy Family Hospital School of Nursing was granted approval for a U. S. Nursing Cadet Corps.  Holy Family graduates who wished could be called to duty in various parts of the world.  Catherine wanted to serve, but wasn’t sure just how or where.  The Sisters at the Hospital suggested that she talk to Father Jaekles, the Pastor at St. Paul Parish in Manitowoc where Catherine attended Mass frequently.  After she explained her desire to help and serve others, Father Jaekles asked, “Why don’t you try the Convent?  I’ll take you there for a visit!”

When they visited the Convent they met Mother Perpetua who gave a short tour and gave her an entrance application.  Father told her to fill it out which she did.  Catherine told her Mother who was very supportive of her call as was her sister, Sister Karlene, who entered the Community six years earlier. Read more–see pdf above.If you are a young woman desiring to live St. Francis’ Gospel way, we invite you to our upcoming discernment options. Click here. Call or Text Sister Julie Ann at 920-323-9632 for more information.

Franciscan Gospel Reflection: Twenty-fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Enjoy another collaborative Franciscan Gospel Sharing post. This weekly Sunday Gospel reflection and questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM. They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. If you would like to read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here: Franciscan Gospel Reflection Sept 17 2017 Excerpts 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.Please include this information when printing 

Photos: St. Therese Church, Schofield, WI

Matthew 18:21-35

Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’ Moved with compassion, the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt.   Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.

So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”


The gospels for last week and this week center around Jesus’ instruction on the disciples’ need to deal with conflicts in ways that do not cause harm to the community. Last week Jesus told the disciples that when one feels they have been offended, they should seek reconciliation with that person, even if they are unaware of their transgression. The goal of Jesus’ instructions seems to be engaging others over perceived sources of conflicts, before they cause divisions. In today’s gospel Jesus addresses another source of conflict – the need for forgiveness within the community. The text begins with Peter asking about how many times he should forgive, which leads into Jesus’ parable on the importance for the disciples to act out of the same need to forgive others as they hope God will have for them.

Peter asks if forgiving another person seven times is sufficient. Jesus insists the members of his community should forgive seventy-seven times. Other translations of this text render it seventy times seven. The point is the same.

Jesus makes his point through a parable which illustrates the underlying values of sharing with others the forgiveness that they have received from God. Verse 23 especially indicates that Jesus is telling the parable to demonstrate how forgiveness is in the realm of God. It also reflects the Near Eastern reality where kings exercised power of life and death. The first debtor owed ten thousand talents. The second owed one denari. It took six thousand denarii to have the equivalent of one talent. The contrast in the amount owed is consistent with the punishment that each could receive. The first could lose wife, children, all his property and most importantly his status as a free person in society. The second man is put in prison until he can repay what he, his family and friends can raise. The response of both men to the possible punishment is exactly the same; it is only the outcome that is different. The last line of the text makes the point. God is like the generous king in the parable who is willing to forgive our great debt. The disciples are expected to imitate that generosity in their own dealings with one another.

The parable also is a window into a very different culture. The role that the community plays in bringing their non-forgiving member to the attention of the King who had just forgiven him his debt is not out of character. The social pressure on the King to act if he is going to safeguard his reputation within the community is a powerful force that may not be immediately recognized by most westerners as we reflect on this text.

In our society, offenses and events of the day are often reported in terms of economic impact. Wars, hurricanes, and the merger of companies are given a dollar value while relationships and people’s lives that will be affected throughout the community are not taken into account. (Money is easier to count than the number of people affected.) Our approach is much different than what would have been the norm for Jesus. The real damage with sin was what it did to the relationships. In the parable, the king forgives an impossible debt (t would have taken 164,000 years of working 7 days a week for a laborer to earn 10,000 talents). He most likely did so because to not do so would mean he would lose honor with the rest of his household. Equally important is the fact that he also must put the servant in jail because of that same code of honor. This society functioned very differently than our own.

Reflection Questions

  1. Have you ever struggled to forgive another?
  2. Can you recall mistakes that you have made where you have felt like you were never truly forgiven?
  3. Are there also significant occasions when you have been able to forgive others?
  4. What do you think Peter is feeling as he asks his question at the beginning of the text?
  5. What effect does that have on your relationships?
  6. Are there people you know who seem to have a great ability to forgive?
  7. AA asks members in recovery to begin to forgive those who have offended them. Why? What can you learn from this? Would you benefit from having a mentor in the area of forgiveness?
  8. In your opinion, is there a difference between forgiving and forgetting?
  9. Can you talk to God about your awareness of God’s desire to forgive you, your unworthiness of that forgiveness, or some other thought or feeling that this text raises for you?

Franciscan Sisters Sponsored Ministries Hosts Pilgrimage

In the last days, Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity sang the Blessing of St. Francis for Sister Laura Wolf and Sister Kay Warning and other sojourners from Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity Sponsored Ministries, Inc. on pilgrimage to Assisi and Rome.  The pilgrims embarked on an experience that hopes to open their eyes and hearts to the transformative vision and legacy of Saints Francis and Clare. Pilgrims represented our various ministries in Wisconsin, Ohio and Nebraska. Community-building is an added grace among the travelers as they make memories in places sacred to the Franciscan tradition.

Before their departure from the Motherhouse, interested pilgrims had an opportunity to meet other people who went on previous pilgrimages. Those coming together obtained helpful tips and an idea of what to expect as they prepared for the journey. The Sisters at Chiara Convent hosted that gathering on an August Sunday afternoon. Sister Laura Wolf, Sister Lorita Gaffney, Sister Kay Warning, and  several Sisters residing in Chiara were present, as well as Marc and Meg Barbeau, Irene Novak, Julie Eggert, Barbara Kane and Patrick Blazer, Jane Curran-Meuli, Dan McGinty, Chris Kornely, Mark and Pam Herzog, Mick and Terri Hollen, Nicole Meissner, Jim and Terri Vopat, Wendy and Matt Campbell and Sister Mary Angela Peters.

Click to hear departure blessing: May the Lord bless you!

Young Adults Host Franciscan Moment

John Paul II young adults in Portage County Wisconsin recently hosted a ‘Franciscan Moment’. It was an open dialogue that engaged the audience on topics important to them and contemporary life. Father Placid Stroik, Franciscan Friar of the Assumption of the BVM Province and Sister Louise Hembrecht, Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity took turns facilitating the conversation.

Beginning with an honest confession on how many times they have visited Assisi and some personal data, the two Franciscans grounded the moment in a background on St. Francis: his life, his call, his mission. Next, the first audience question on suffering emerged. St. Francis who lived with the stigmata was a perfect example of someone who witnessed joy in pain. He simply saw it as pure gift to being more like Christ who suffered and died for us out of love. In all interchanges that followed, priority was given to Jesus. For after all, St. Francis above all pointed to Christ and truly desired to be like him.

There was a Secular Franciscan represented in the group discussion. It was evident that all followers of St. Francis of the first, second and third orders are encouraged to desire nothing else but to do their part in being another Christ and seeing the goodness of God in all of creation.

Other conversation starters included reconciliation as a way of individual and communal conversion and growth; what may have been the possible significance of Pope Francis’ choice of name; what is the meaning of the Tau cross; the Franciscan moment in Solanus Casey’s beatification; importance of a place for various individuals in different social classes to come together e.g. mission of Franciscans Downtown in Stevens Point, WI and venture capital- how we can be the seed early-stage in emerging growth in goodness in our world.

Franciscan Sisters Meet Seminarians at Parish Picnic

What do Franciscan Sisters do on holidays?  Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity serving at Christ Our Light Parish, Cambridge, Ohio, share their Labor Day activities including meeting seminarians from the Josephinum Seminary, Columbus, Ohio, on the road at a parish picnic.

Sisters at St. Benedict Convent, Cambridge, Ohio, Sister  June Smith, Sister Jan Villemure and Sister Sharon Paul traveled through the beautiful, rolling hills to St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church, Fulda Rd., Caldwell, Ohio, for the 87th Labor Day Homecoming Picnic. All festivities  started with Mass. Father Chet Pabin, friend of the Sisters, presided at the liturgy that drew many descendants of the founders of this German settlement. (In fact, this was the home of our deceased Sister Cordea and Sister Benita Marie Hohman.)

At Mass we met three Seminarians from the Josephinum Seminary. All three had connections to our Sisters. Michael Gorman is from Harbor Springs, Michigan. He attended our former St. Francis Xavier School in Petoskey where Sister Jan taught in the 70’s. Nathan Blanchard is from Flagstaff, Arizona. He knows Father David Loeffler from Yuma, a former student of Sister Jan’s from Yuma Catholic High School. Christopher Crum is from Woodsfield, Ohio where Sister Sharon taught at St. Sylvester’s School. A significant piece of trivia, Christopher is a distant relative of our Sisters Cordea and Sister Benita Marie, so he was experiencing a homecoming with his relatives.

Some activities throughout the day included a cornhole tournament,  round and square dance, games, and baked goods and homemade noodles were for sale. There was also free admission to the square dance from 4-7 p.m.

Franciscan Gospel Reflection: Twenty third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Here’s another collaborative Franciscan Gospel Sharing post. This weekly Sunday Gospel reflection and questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM. They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. If you would like to read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here: Franciscan Gospel Reflections September 10 2017 Excerpts 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: Sts. Peter and Paul Perpetual Adoration Chapel, Wisconsin Rapids, WI.

Mt 18:15-20

[Jesus said to the disciples] “If your brother sins (against you), go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.

Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again, (amen,) I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”


The last two gospels have been turning points for both Jesus and for the disciples. Two weeks ago Jesus asked the disciples who they believed he was. Peter spoke up saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) Last week, Jesus told them that his role as Messiah would mean suffering, rejection and death. Peter again spoke up and expressed his hope that Jesus would be spared such a fate. Besides forcibly correcting Peter, Jesus also instructed them all that if they were to be his followers, they too must be willing to lose their lives. Last week’s text ended the 16th chapter of Matthew’s gospel.

The gospel for this week is taken from the 18th chapter of Matthew’s text. The church, in choosing texts for our reflection at Sunday Masses, has decided to skip the entire 17th chapter and the first 14 verses of the 18th chapter at this point in the liturgical year. If time permits it may be helpful to read those verses. For those who do not have the opportunity read the text that will be skipped in the Sunday Lectionary, here is a list of the events that Matthew describes in those verses.

The Transfiguration of Jesus
Jesus’ instruction regarding the coming of Elijah
The healing of a boy who is possessed by a demon
A second prediction of Jesus’ suffering and death
Jesus being questioned about paying the temple tax
Jesus teaching the disciples that the greatest in the realm of God is like a little child
A stern warning to those who would lead a child into sin
The parable of the lost sheep
The last two teachings of Jesus in the above list draw attention to Jesus’ concern for the lost. They provide the backdrop for the instruction to the disciples in the text for this week.

Jesus lived in a culture where allegiance to family and honor were deeply-held values. In this society conflict could easily escalate into violence. Therefore there was a real need to deal with the conflicts that did arise. The motivation in the gospel is, clearly, to reach out in compassion in a way that does not draw attention or embarrassment to the person who feels they have been offended. When a situation becomes public, the parties feel a need to protect their honor and not appear weak or vulnerable. Everyone needs to protect their reputation, so the quicker and quieter the situation can be dealt with, the easier it is to maintain peace and avoid violence.
Jesus’ instruction puts the responsibility for taking action on the one who experienced a perceived offense. The obvious omission is the determination of who is the true source of the offense. That does not seem to be the issue for Jesus. Restoring the relationship and avoiding violence that can be passed on from one generation to the next is the focus.

Typically in this culture, disagreements were not settled by logic or by a convincing line of reasoning, but rather on the number and status of those who could be gathered to support one’s point of view. Therefore, if the private and personal approach did not restore the relationship, then one used means that were part of the culture, getting others and, if needed, the church involved. If that was unsuccessful, the person lost their relationship with the community. They were treated as a non-member of the community or as a traitor. While this may sound harsh in the world in which most contemporary western Christians live, in a culture like Jesus’ where conflicts could easily lead to violence and death, treating anther as lost or cut off is comparatively mild.

The second part of the text stresses the responsibility that the community played in reaching out to the lost and alienated of the community. What was bound on earth by those disciples of Jesus was bound in heaven. Those who failed to maintain their relationship, or refused to be reconciled, would also find it so in heaven. Nowhere in the instruction does it indicate that this admonition is meant just for the apostles or those who exercise roles of leadership. It is addressed to all the disciples.

Reflection Questions:

1. Have you ever been aware that your actions or words could lead to bloodshed and/or death? What do you think it would be like to live in that kind of situation? Can you think of people who do live in that kind of fear even today?
2. Have you ever had to stop associating with a person because of the potential physical or moral damage that continuing the relationship might cause?
3. Do you know people who have let go of hurts, insults and even violence? How does that affect them? What have you learned from them?
4. To what extent have you reached out to another in order to save a relationship? Has it been worth it?
5. Have there been times when you refused to reach out to another and the relationship was significantly damaged? Was it worth it?
6. What would happen if the Church sought to deal with erring members in a way described by this gospel? How might that affect the average parishioners in your parish? How would it affect you?
7. What is the most challenging part of this gospel text for you?
8. What is the most encouraging part of this gospel text for you?
9. How would you like to respond to Jesus’ instruction to you in this text?

Novices Learn Practical Art of Sewing

Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity Novitiate is the beginning of religious life itself, and its purpose ‘is to enable the novice to learn its primary essentials.’ Indeed, extended periods of recollection and prayer, study and reflection are important to this formative time in becoming a Franciscan Sister. Also included in this special time of growth and experiences are the practical arts of housekeeping and sewing.

Sister Anna Maar and Sister Jean Anne Moser were asked to teach Novices Sister Colleen, Sister Clare Rose and Sister Cecilia Joy the basics of sewing. Beginning with hand sewing, fabric and a pattern for an apron were selected for a practical project. Sewing machine experience followed after first learning how to do the basic threading of the needle. Some of the novices had prior experience so they were voices of encouragement to the others.Others gained knowledge along the way and in a short amount of time completed the apron.  One Friday evening they put their aprons to good use in the dish washing room! Of course, the Sisters in the cafeteria after noticing the colorful aprons, cheered on the new seamstresses.

Franciscan Song for New Beginnings: Halley’s Comet by Sarah Darling

During September, a month of college and university students’ new ventures and young adults taking steps in their vocations and professional lives, Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity feature Sarah Darling’s Halley’s Comet. The theme of new beginnings and returnings (like a comet) are moments to be celebrated and thoughtfully reflected on. We all desire to shine in following God’s will.

For Sarah Darling’s Halley’s Comet audio stream click here


About Sarah Ann Darling

Sarah Ann Darling is an American country music singer and songwriter based out of Nashville, TN. She first made her name known to the public in 2003, when she was a top-three finalist on E! Entertainment Television’s reality show, The Entertainer, hosted by Wayne Newton. Darling then went into the studio in the summer of 2008 to record her debut album, Every Monday Morning, which was released on June 16, 2009. A second album, Angels & Devils, featuring the hit single, “Something to Do With Your Hands”, followed on February 15, 2011. In August 2012, her single titled “Home to Me,” was released to digital retailers after being previously featured on Sirius XM’s The Highway. It sold over 8,000 copies in the first week of release, becoming the top selling digital single from a new female artist since May 2011.

Over the total span of her career, Darling has reached over a half-million downloads worldwide and landed two #1 videos on CMT and GAC, in addition to appearances on TBS’ CONAN, FOX & Friends, HLN Morning Express with Robin Meade, ABC’s The Bachelor, Better TV and more. On top of this, her dream of playing the Grand Ole Opry came to pass in February 2011, when she made her debut. Since then, Darling has been a frequent visitor to the Opry stage.

Darling is now preparing to release new music this coming January. From wishing on wandering stars, to never giving up, the new material really captures the spirit of the ones who love to dream. Sarah Darling is sure to take you on whimsical ride through songs about stars, and when cowboys used to ride away into the West, with her new sound that she calls Dream Country.



Franciscan Gospel Reflection: Sunday of the Twenty-second Week of Ordinary Time

Here’s another collaborative Franciscan Gospel Sharing post. This weekly Sunday Gospel reflection and questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM. They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. If you would like to read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here: Franciscan Gospel Reflections September 3 2017 Excerpts 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: Holy Angels Parish, West Bend ‘Washed Rainbow’

Mt 16:21-27

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 [Jesus’] 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.

In this text, Jesus was teaching the disciples that he was not the kind of Messiah that most people were expecting. Verse 21 makes it clear that he would suffer, die, and be raised from the dead, and that the religious leaders of the day would be involved in the events that would unfold. 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 seems to be implying that Jesus was viewed as a threat, and not only to Rome’s civil order. He had also disturbed the religious leaders enough that they were seeking a way to have him put to death. In a culture where one’s status and existence depended on being part of a network of relationships, and where privacy was not valued, 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 almost exclusively 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 the child. A farmer may plan for the harvest of a crop that was already beginning to grow. 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, it should be understood that 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 demise, Peter likely clung to some belief that as the Messiah, God would not permit any harm to happen to him. When Peter expressed his faith and trust in God to Jesus, Jesus responded to him as one who would have him abandon what he understood, as his role was to be faithful and obedient to God, even if it meant suffering and his own death. Jesus’ honor was to be found 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.

Recall too that in the desert, Jesus had wrestled with Satan, who tempted him to use his divine powers to change his human reality and to display his divine authority. He resisted that temptation at that time. During his public life, he was challenged to perform signs that would demonstrate his authority. He refused. Now Peter was suggesting that Jesus somehow escape from the fate that his life and preaching had brought. Jesus called Peter “Satan,” or the one who was acting as an obstacle to God’s will. He was making it clear to Peter and to his disciples that he was totally committed to be faithful to the path he had chosen. Those who would try to persuade him from that path in any way were acting like Satan in the desert.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What is your attitude toward pain and suffering? Can you think of different times when you have both avoided pain and suffering, and when you have knowingly done things that you knew were going to painful?
  2. What is the most difficult kind of pain for you to endure? Are there also types of pain for which you seem to have a high tolerance?
  3. Do you know people whose primary mode of living seems to be “avoid all pain at all cost”?
  4. Have you ever chosen a life course that you knew was going to upset people and even make your life more difficult, if you chose one way of acting over another? What was that time of decision-making like for you? How did that decision affect how you think about yourself today?
  5. Have you ever acted as though not talking about or not thinking about some dire consequences would prevent them from happening?
  6. Have you ever acted out a hope that good and loving God-fearing will lead to a tranquil and well-ordered life?
  7. What do you think Peter was feeling as this situation unfolded?
  8. What do you think would have happened if Peter had said in response: “How else do you expect me to think? I am human, only human, and will always be human. I am frustrated when you expect me to think like anything other than a human!”
  9. Do you ever find yourself believing that God may be upset with you?
  10. Can you take some time to talk to God about how God looks upon you and your efforts to be in an honest and faithful relationship, or anything else that rises within you from this text?