August 31, 2014
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
21 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. 22 Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, "God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you." 23 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."
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 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? 27 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.” That text 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 were involved in the events that would unfold. These events would take place in Jerusalem, the center of both religious and civil authority of the day for the 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 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 in his field. 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 with that same kind of expectation about his future.
Regarding when Peter took Jesus aside to express his hope that God would not allow any evil to happen to Jesus, this should also be understood in light of what he and many others expected of the Messiah. However, Jesus heard his statement as if he was trying to tempt him away from accepting the consequences of preaching and living the “Kingdom of God” as he had come to believe it. 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 on. 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.
1. 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?
2. Have you ever acted as though not talking about or not thinking about some dire consequences would prevent them from happening?
3. Do you believe or hope that being good, faithful, and God-fearing will lead to a tranquil and well-ordered life?
4. How did the Jews of the day look upon the city of Jerusalem? Are there places in your life that you hold with a similar mindset?
5. What do you think Peter was feeling at this point in the gospel?
6. Do you think Jesus was upset because Peter was thinking like a human being and not like God?
7. 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!”
8. Do you ever find yourself believing that God may be upset with you?
9. Do you ever feel that you are like Peter, one day feeling fairly good about your relationship with God, the Church, and those about you, and the next day feeling like you are unable to get anything right?
10. As you read this text, what is on your heart? Can you speak that to God in some way?
Reflection questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM.
They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF and Joe Thiel.
To be added to the distribution list, send your name and email address to
A Spanish translation of the reflection questions is made possible by Fernando Alessandrini.
Please include this information when printing or forwarding.