“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asks his disciples on the way to Caesarea Philippi. “You are the Christ,” Peter says in reply, going beyond what the crowds were saying then of Jesus.
But then as Jesus speaks of suffering greatly, being rejected, killed and rising after three days, Peter rejects his prediction. In reply Jesus says to him “Get behind me Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as humans do. ” (Mark 8,27-33)
The Gospel of Mark, more than the others, presents us with the human Peter, thinking as humans do. He appears in the story of the Passion of Jesus failing miserably as he denies Jesus three times and deserts him in his last hours. If Peter is the voice behind Mark’s gospel, he certainly hasn’t made himself a hero nor does he excuse his failures. Many times he seems to say as he says elsewhere in the gospel; “I’m a sinful man.”
Yet, he was called upon by Jesus to lead and teach.
In a few days (February 22nd) we’re going to celebrate the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter. The chair is in the Vatican Basilica beneath the window of the Holy Spirit which sheds its bright light upon it. It’s a teacher’s chair, not a throne, and from Mark’s gospel we get a picture of the one who, with the Spirit’s help, leads and teaches the church.
A human hand reaches from the darkness to the divine.
To listen to this weeks homily just select the audio below:
Last week in the gospel Jesus called Peter the rock on which he would build his church. Today he calls him “Satan” and tells him to get away from him.
In the gospels Peter is usually the voice of common sense. That’s what you would expect from a fisherman making his living on the sea. When storms come, get out of their way and head for port.
And so when Jesus speaks of the storms of suffering and death he will face on his journey to Jerusalem, Peter advises him to turn away. “God forbid, Lord, no such thing shall ever happen to you.” The voice of common sense.
But Jesus reminds Peter (and us along with him) that he is thinking “as human beings do.” He even calls him “Satan.” He tells Peter, and all of us, to think as God thinks.
Our readings today remind us of the limitations of human thinking. Jeremiah the prophet says to God in our first reading “You have deceived me.” “You have let me down; you don’t love me; you don’t care.” We only see so far as human beings. When the mystery of the cross casts shadows of sickness, failure and disappointment over us, it’s hard for us to say “I see, I understand, your will be done.”
We’re limited in the way we think. How, then can we think as God wishes us to think? Certainly we can’t know all that God knows. God’s thoughts, God’s mind is infinitely beyond ours.
Thinking like God means knowing the world God made and living in it as God wants us to.
I wonder if the signs of the bread and the wine we bring to the altar can help us see what it means to know the world God made and live in it as God wishes us to live in it.
As we offer the bread to God at Mass we say: “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.”
The bread is a sign of everything, of all creation, we say, creation as it has been given to us by God and creation our hands have fashioned.
Scientists say that our universe came into existence about 15 billion years ago.
About 3.5 billion years ago life began on our planet. The universe is represented in this bread; it holds the story of the universe.
About 200,000 years ago human life emerged on our planet. 200,000 years of human life are represented in this bread. Our lives are part of the human story.
We believe that God created our world and it’s is good. The Book of Genesis tells us that. God has a plan for this universe. The scriptures say there’s wisdom and love in that plan. His kingdom will come.
We all have to care for this world, each of us has a part to play in that greater plan.
But we also know the mystery of evil is at work in our world and the mystery of evil is also represented in this bread.
When Jesus took bread into his hands at the Last Supper we have to see the magnitude of that action. He took all created reality, all human existence, the goodness and evil of life in his hands. He was a sign of God’s love and care for all of it. He took it in his hands and gives it to us, in turn, blessed by his presence.
“This is my body.” “This is my blood.”
How significant it is that he gives himself to us in bread and wine. It’s an invitation to live in this world, depending on his wisdom and power. He will show us the way.