Thursday, January 17, 2013

22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

I gave this homily around July 2011, for the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time cycle A.
What a difference a week makes… what I mean is, how different today’s Gospel reading is from the last week’s reading. If you recall last Sunday we heard Jesus giving Peter what turned to be the greatest praise ever given to one of his disciples. After Peter declares that Jesus is the Son of God, Jesus says: “Blessed are you, Simon for my heavenly Father has revealed this to you.  I will build my church upon you, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. Whatever you bind or loose on earth shall be bound or loosen in heaven” [Jesus calls Peter blessed because of his connection with The Father and declares that because of this connection he will have great power!]
How different are these words from today’s Gospel “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do!"  Satan? An obstacle to me? You do not think like God???  These are the strongest words Jesus ever directed against one of His own apostles, including Judas!
 Because we listen to this exchange in different weeks of the liturgical calendar we might conclude that these were two different conversations, but in the book of Matthew, today’s reading is the conclusion of last week reading. These two scenes happened one after another.  Jesus gives His highest praise and strongest rebuke to the same person in a matter of seconds!
If you think about it there is a big problem with the way Jesus is presented by Mathew. He comes across as someone very temperamental. How can he, been THE all knowing God, second guess himself in just a matter of seconds? 
Well, the key to these readings is not Jesus reaction to Peter’s words but the motivations behind Peter’s statements. Last week when Peter declared: ”You are the son of the living God” he says that Peter was in a state of blessedness because God had revealed this secret knowledge to him: he is not only the messiah, but also “The Son of the Living God”. Today what does Jesus says? “You are thinking as a humans do!”.
Peter is inspired by the Holy Spirit to declare that Jesus is the Son of God but when Jesus starts explaining the meaning of this, the fact that he will have to go to Jerusalem, suffer greatly and finally be killed, Peter abandons his divine state of blessedness and starts analyzing the consequences of these actions with mere human eyes; to the point that he pulls Jesus aside and advices him that this talk Is not good if he is to fulfill the Jewish idea of a messiah. I hope you see what is going on here, God has given Peter divine knowledge and Peter not understanding its meaning starts trying to reason with God about what should be a better plan!
I ask you my brothers and sisters, how many times have we done the same thing? How many times have we prayed to God convinced that he is the only one who has the power to help us only to end up telling him how he should use this power, Instead of trusting him? 
But that is not all, If you look closely at Jesus words to Peter in today’s gospel he is not actually rebuking him. Peter is not told “that’s it. You are no longer going to lead my Church”. Peter is not told “get away from me Satan” but “Get behind me”.  Jesus is saying stop thinking like humans do and trust in me!  Stop telling me what to do because when you do, you are thinking in human terms and it just makes you a stumbling block to the power of God. And what is the power of God?… the sacrifice of the cross and the resurrection. Bringing life out of death and sorrow.
Like Peter we cannot declare that Jesus is the Son of God out of our own power. This is knowledge that comes from God by the power of the Holy Spirit through the sacraments we receive. What we do with this knowledge, how we respond to the responsibility of having this knowledge is what really matters. When we find ourselves in situations in which we, by words or actions are called to declare the truth of the Gospel we cannot shy away from being a disciple, from the sacrifices the Gospel demands from us, even if this means death. And I’m not talking physical death; I’m talking about the death of a friendship, or a business deal or of a relationship.   Because when we do this; when we shy away from the responsibility that comes from being a disciple, we become a stumbling block for God to enact his plan of salvation.  To be a real disciple is declaring Jesus as our divine Lord and accepting the consequences of this declaration, because to accept Jesus is to accept our own sacrifice for the truth of the Gospel. We might lose the respect of our friends or co workers, or might have to sacrifice our own comfort, we might even have to suffer financial loss, but at the end Jesus promises a great reward.   Christianity without the sacrifice of the cross is just another nice philosophy and Christians which are not willing to give everything for this message, to use Jesus words from today’s Gospel might end up gaining the whole world but at the end they might end up losing their souls.