Sunday August 30

Gospel of Matthew 16:21–27

Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.

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 killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He 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.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”

Jesus died as a consequence of his life and ministry. Siding with the oppressed, marginalised and poor was never going to be the easy road. Jesus was willing to be God’s revolutionary Messiah with full knowledge of the violence that was likely to be done to him as a result of pursuing justice, love and peace rather than the privileges of popularity. This time Peter is a stumbling block (and not a rock) for Jesus. I am struck by the clarity and strength of Jesus’ rebuke. It speaks of his wholehearted focus on love of the poor and vulnerable. He wasn’t going to let any subtle bad spirit water down his mission of love.

Mary Ward also encountered sisters and priests who wanted to water down her mission. Through her felt knowledge of God she refused to alter her call to ‘Take the Same as the Society’; her God-inspired plan for a worldwide religious community of women, working with the same freedom and autonomy as the Jesuits. Women who were called to become wholehearted missionaries themselves rather than just supporters of mission. Rebuking others in the name of love most often isn’t the clear path that leads to popularity. Mary died an apparent failure. The interior movements that strive for popularity so evident in today’s society, need to be courageously rebuked at every turn.

The Cross is the entry point through which humanity encounters a new truth, a new goodness and the awareness of freedom, justice and sincerity. The free self-emptying of Jesus reveals the truth about God as light and love. God made known a reality of love and now desires a human response. The pattern of divine love is the Cross—a pattern of life for Mary Ward and those who followed her, who are drawn into the divine trajectory. This is not a destructive burden but rather a source of empowerment, enabling a deeper refining of interior dispositions that enable one to listen to the Spirit. 

Can I listen to the Spirit within? Do I have the clarity and courage to rebuke what is in the way of God’s mission of love both within myself and in the world around me?