I am not much into church signs and I am glad that we do not have one here at St. Dominic’s because I am not witty enough to post a profound thought each week. I did see one church sign thought the other day that I did like though. It was, “Do not let self eclipse the Son.” Since we all survived the recent solar eclipse we can now breathe a sigh of relief! But the church sign thought is good and it connects well with the today’s gospel (Mt. 16:21-27).
We are told that after our Lord shares how he must go to Jerusalem, suffer and be killed; Peter takes him aside and begins to rebuke Jesus, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” Peter’s self – expressed in his view or our Lord and his view of how our Lord is to fulfill his mission and how the Kingdom is to be brought about – attempts to eclipse the Son. The temptation is there for all of us. In subtle and not so subtle ways we can easily fall into the same error – we can try to tell God how to do his job, we can try to tell the gospel what it really means but this is foolishness. It is like the moon trying to tell the sun how to shine. No real light is shed, only shadows are cast.
What struck me for the first time in praying over this gospel is that Jesus “turned” before rebuking Peter. Peter had taken Jesus aside. Peter was conversing with and rebuking our Lord to his face. By then turning, our Lord already had his back to Peter when he said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” It would do us well to take our Lord at his words here. We are told that our Lord was tempted in every way but never sinned. Our Lord is tempted by this rebuke and these thoughts of Peter. Peter’s words, even his care for Jesus in that moment, was an obstacle for our Lord. In Jesus’ response we can see that the thought is there with which our Lord wrestles, “Maybe there is another way to fulfill the mission? Maybe there is another way to usher in the Kingdom? Maybe I do not have to go to Jerusalem?” The temptation is there and it is real but our Lord does not sin. He does not turn away from God’s will. Rather, he very physically turns his back to this limited, human way of thinking which is not God’s way of thinking.
Paul writes in his Letter to the Romans (Rom. 12:1-2), “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” This is part of the path of discipleship – to learn how to turn away from our human ways of thought and to think as God thinks. It is not easy. In fact, it might actually be the hardest part of discipleship. We like our presumptions and our views and our way of doing things. Lord, you mean this too? This also has to be offered up and denied and taken to the cross? Our Lord responds, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
But how do we go about this renewal of the mind according to the will of God? We turn and we turn to God! There is something almost dramatic and even jarring about our Lord’s turn from Peter and his words “Get behind me, Satan!” Our thoughts and presumptions can entangle and trap us, even those which on the surface seem so normal, so commonsensical and even caring and reasonable. There is a power to the sharpness of our Lord’s response. No, there is another way. There is God’s way and by that way I will live, whether understood by others or not! Jesus shows this to us in this moment and he shows that all things – even our presumptions, our thoughts and our way of doing things – must give way to the truth of the Kingdom.
Do not let self eclipse the Son. Be transformed by the renewal of your mind!