There is a great lesson in today's gospel about discernment of God's will. We are presented with the episode at Caesarea Phillippi where Jesus gauges the degree to which his disciples have understood who he is. Peter's answer earns him great praise from his Master, it is not flesh and blood that revealed that to him but the Father in heaven. On account of his his answer he is to be Jesus' representative on earth. On the basis of Peter's answer Jesus reveals another aspect of his mission: he the Son of the living God is to suffer greviously at the hands of the religious leaders, to be killed and later to rise. That is God's plan. Peter, as the newly appointed leader of Jesus' Church and as one who is promised divine assistance throughout history, takes it on himself to dissuade Jesus from the course he is taking. He never expected what followed, nor could the other apostles have expected it. “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
In the first place we learn that Satan can come to us through the most unexpected people: our dear ones, people we love and trust, even people who are inspired by God. Jesus loved and trusted Peter and he had just indicated that Peter had spoken through divine inspiration. The temptation may not even be intended to make us do something evil; it may be something that appears quite reasonable from a human point of view. However, as long as it does not correspond to God's will, it is bad enough. Secondly, we observe Jesus' response, when he perceived that Satan was tempting him through his trusted apostle: he did not mince words out of a desire to spare feelings, on not to hurt or to be polite. Thirdly, Jesus' reaction at the moment did not in any way reduce his love and trust in Peter. Just because people have been a cause of a temptation or even a fall for us at some occasion does not mean that we should reject them for good.
To be able to detect Satan's devious and most subtle ways, we need to keep close to Jesus who enlightens our minds and hearts to see the traps, gives us the courage to firm even to the point of hurting the people we love, and the ability to continue loving and trusting them in spite of they having been a stumbling block to us at any one time. For this we pray.
Thursday, 18th Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Get behind me Satan, 7th August 2014