Weekend of 3 September 2017

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time | Year A

Matt 16:21-27

Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day. Then taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him.  ‘Heaven preserve you, Lord,’ he said. ‘This must not happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’

Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it. What, then, will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life? Or what has a man to offer in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and, when he does, he will reward each one according to his behaviour.’


Peter found it hard to understand why Jesus would take a path that might lead him into danger. It was a perfectly natural reaction on Peter’s part - why would Jesus choose to put himself in danger? Jesus made clear to him that there was a difference between a natural human choice to preserve his life and his participation in God’s plan.

We face the same choice often. A natural human reaction to a situation pulls us in one direction; what God is asking of us calls us in another direction. An example is when another person hurts or harms us in some way. Our human reaction can be to strike back in some way; God calls us to forgive and to address the matter in a way that leads to peace in the relationship, not to an escalation of aggression.
The difficulty of doing what we know in our head and our heart Christ is calling us to do was expressed by St Paul in the Letter to the Romans 7:15:” For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate”. Our emotions can be powerful forces overriding our reason and knowledge of what Christ calls us to do and to be.
When our emotions come into play in a situation it is like being pushed towards the edge of a cliff. Giving expression to destructive emotions is like taking the one additional step which takes us over the edge of the cliff. Our action in taking that step can’t be reversed. One simple way of dealing with an emotional reaction within us is to see it as standing on the edge of a cliff and visualize ourselves taking one step back. The one step back may be pausing before reacting. It may be deciding not to do anything for ten minutes. It may be simply walking away from the situation, or saying to the person “I don’t like what you have done, and I need to think about it”. 
Any simple action that forestalls or delays the emotional reaction can help us to re-orientate ourselves with the question “Lord, what do you want me to do here?”