"There are not more than 100 people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive to be the Catholic Church. ....As a matter of fact, if we Catholics believed all of the untruths and lies which were said against the Church, we probably would hate the Church a thousand times more than they do." - Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
(Gospel Text: Mt 16:13-23)
Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
and he asked his disciples,
"Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
Simon Peter said in reply,
"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
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.
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.
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."
Then he strictly ordered his disciples
to tell no one that he was the Christ.
From that time on, 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."
You would think that it would be hard for an airplane hurtling through the sky at 600 miles per hour to veer off course. But actually, it’s quite the opposite. There’s a lot of wind that high up in the sky! This is why the plane’s course has to be constantly monitored and corrected.
In today’s Gospel, Peter gets his own course correction. He has just proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah, and Jesus praises him for his spiritual insight. But then comes a strong gust of wind to alter his trajectory: Jesus says that he, the Messiah, will be rejected by the elders and suffer and die. Peter can’t accept this and immediately disagrees, prompting Jesus to reprimand him harshly: “You are thinking not as God does but as human beings do” (Matthew 16:23).
Actually, this isn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last, when Jesus has to redirect Peter’s faith. And thank God for that! If it could happen to the great St. Peter, surely we would welcome it when it happens to us!
God is constantly at work trying to keep us on course. He is always trying to give us a clearer picture of who he is so that we don’t lose our way. Sometimes it’s easy, but at other times it’s hard work as he strips away our misconceptions about him and his mission.
Just like Peter, we won’t get the full picture overnight. It takes time. It takes persistence. It takes a deepening relationship with the Lord. But just like Peter, we’ll discover that the results are well worth the effort. When Jesus shows himself to us, longstanding bitterness can dissolve. We feel empowered to let go of our anxiety and fear. We receive grace to overcome sinful habits.
Today, ask the Lord to show himself to you more clearly. Let him keep you on the right track!