Gospel Reading: Sunday 3 September 2023

I urge you, then, brothers, remembering the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, dedicated and acceptable to God; that is the kind of worship for you, as sensible people.

WelCom September 2023

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 16:21-27

I urge you, then, brothers, remembering the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, dedicated and acceptable to God; that is the kind of worship for you, as sensible people.

Do not model your behaviour on the contemporary world, but let the renewing of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and mature.

21 ‘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 put to death and to be raised on the third day.

22 Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, ‘God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.’

23 But Jesus 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 be a follower of mine, must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.

25 Anyone who wishes to save his life will lose it; but anyone loses his life for my sake will find it.

26 What then, will anyone gain by winning the whole world and forfeiting his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life?

27 For the Son of Man will come in the glory of his Father’s with his angels, and then he will reward each one according to his conduct.’

Gospel Reflection for 22nd Sunday Ordinary Time: Matthew 16:21-27

Br Kevin Dobbyn fms

A precursor to today’s Gospel reading Mt 16:21-27 is Mt 16: 16-20.

16 Simon Peter said in reply, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. 17 Jesus said to him in reply, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. 18 And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’ 20 Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah.

Who likes to be criticised, especially when having done something good or generous? Any criticism can take us back to childhood when a mother or father, hassled with many other issues, might have told us off or given a stern, dismissive look that can deflate a child, cutting any self-esteem to shreds.

Here in just a few verses before (vv.16-19) Peter has had one of those ‘aha!’ moments in recognising that the rabbi who had called him (it was usually students who attached themselves to a rabbi) was the Messiah they’d all been waiting for. Jesus speaks of Peter being the rock and the faith he expressed as the foundation of the church (the ecclesia – the gathering) that he was building. 

Thinking his leadership was to protect this Messiah and to establish a politically powerful kingdom, Peter rebukes Jesus but gets a sound telling off from the One he regards as his Lord. 

Peter was expecting the long-awaited Messiah to overthrow Rome and establish a Messianic kingdom. So ingrained was this expectation in the minds of the disciples, including the mother of James and John (Mt 20:20), that Peter could not conceive of the kingdom Jesus spoke of as he explained to them, for this first time, the suffering, indifference and death he was to endure in Jerusalem (Mt 16:21).

In saying to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan’, Jesus heard not Peter so much as Satan, the adversary who had infected Peter with values that were contrary to those of the Reign of God. Taking up the way of the cross was God’s way, the way of sacrificial love. Peter has not yet understood the true purpose of Jesus’ coming, so missing the whole point of what the Reign of God is about. 

In one way or another through its history, the Church at times has also misunderstood Jesus’ message, for instance, when so infected with clericalism’s abuse of authority – a disease not peculiar only to the ordained. Peter believed he was right, even certain. Jesus’ rebuke is a severe warning to us not to be seduced into a corporation-like model of Church with its rules, regulations and certainties. 

The criticism and critique we receive can restore our humility; and so, with synodality we return to Jesus’ idea of church: that we are all brothers and sisters as the Pilgrim People of God (Mt 23:8-9), at home with doubt and uncertainty through which we together discern the Spirit’s navigating wisdom calling us to become Christ for the world.