September 3, 2017
by Tom Lenz
Creighton University Department of Pharmacy Practice
click here for photo and information about the writer

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 124

Jeremiah 20:7-9
Psalm 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
Romans 12:1-2
Matthew 16:21-27

Praying Ordinary Time

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The readings for today are very powerful. There are accusations and even an argumentative tone about them. In Matthew’s gospel reading I imagine myself in the shoes of one of the disciples. I see Peter take Jesus aside and speak to him very strongly. But, Jesus fires right back with an even more forceful tone. It is then that the message of the story becomes clear. It is then that we can start to relate to the exchange between Peter and Jesus in our own lives.

Peter was afraid. He was acting out of fear in a way that I sometimes do. Sometimes my initial reaction as a parent, spouse, friend, or coworker is reactionary so as to avoid danger or hardship that I can see coming. This seems to happen more often than not in my role as a parent of four children. Over the last 21 years there have been countless times when one of the kids was about to do something dangerous and I overreacted in an effort to keep them safe – “don’t run with scissors!”, “don’t drive so fast!”, and “don’t go out with that boy!” (That one is the most difficult.) I believe this type of reaction is very human-like and is motivated by fear in an effort to protect. I imagine this was a similar feeling that Peter had when his beloved friend started talking about his impending suffering and death. Can you blame Peter? His reaction and spirited words to Jesus were very consistent with a human-like reaction. However, Jesus said in reply, “You are not thinking as God does, but as human beings do.” What a wake-up call for Peter. Jesus is reminding Peter and the other disciples of the reason for his life on earth, and more importantly, to trust in God’s plan. I think this is the larger message from today’s reading and one that is consistently provided throughout many of the gospel readings. God has a plan – don’t let your human-based fears come between you and God and his plan. And, as Jesus says to Peter – “Get behind me Satan!” – especially don’t let the dark spirit be the origins of these fears and, thereby, have the dark spirit come between you and God.

Through his words in the second paragraph, Jesus is trying to get us to realize that we must get past our own humanity and trust God in order to gain life. To do this, it may seem like the more we can control the situation, the better we will feel. It is natural for us as humans to feel less stress when we are control of a situation. We tend to want to control (or over control) when we parent or do anything in which we care about the outcome. Peter was likely trying to feel more control when he was speaking to Jesus. However, today’s gospel is a bit paradoxical. Jesus is once again telling us to give up this control to God in order to achieve life. I believe Jesus is telling us to listen to the Holy Spirit and the continual messages and guidance he is sending us, and then to trust that this guidance is right. Be aware of the messages from the dark spirit that stir up feelings of fear and stress. Resist them, give up control to God, and life (peace) will follow. So, the more I think about it, the paradox is – the more we give up control to God, the less stress we will feel (rather than thinking about it the other way around – “as human beings do”).

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