Thursday, February 19, 2009

Get Behind Me, Satan! You Have Set Your Mind On Human Things, Not Divine Things.

As today’s Reading begins, the LORD blesses Noah and his offspring, saying:

Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth. All the beasts of the earth, the birds of the air, the creatures that crawl on the ground and the fish in the sea, everything that lives and moves will be your food. Just as I gave you the green plants, now I give you everything. Be fruitful, then, and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.

I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants, and with every creature on the earth. Never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth. This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature on the earth. I have set my rainbow in the clouds, to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

This reading from the book of Genesis offers us an image of an almighty God whose creation of the earth and all that is in it is grounded in love, and who gives to the people on the earth one precept: My dominion over you is founded in love: I brought you into being out of love; I sustain you out of love; I forgive your wrongdoing out of love; I call you to abide me forever in my kingdom. All I ask in return is that you love one another as I have loved you.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” The disciples mention various prophets who represent important aspects of the divine mission, but none of them truly touches upon the truth of who Jesus is. Then Jesus asks them another question, “Who do you say that I am?” It is Peter who responds, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Yet, when Jesus begins to reveal to his disciples what will be happening to him, his suffering and death, Peter began to rebuke him. “I am not going to let that happen to you, Lord!"  Christ’s self-image reflects the suffering, death and resurrection, but Peter’s image of the Messiah does not include suffering and death. So much that Jesus rebukes him, “Get behind me, Satan! You are setting your mind not on divine things, but on human things.”

It is not easy to accept that being a disciple of Jesus means following in his footsteps, and accepting that our path will lead inevitably to suffering and the cross. Three times today, I have been reminded of a dialogue between Jesus and Teresa of Avila. “Lord, why do you allow me to be treated the way people are treating me?” “Teresa, this is the way I treat my friends.” “Well, then! It’s no wonder you have so few!”

“If you would be my disciple, take up your cross and follow me”, Jesus said. Let us not forget: There is no crown without its cross.

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