Suffering from the Divine Perspective

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Readings for Today

Saints Cornelius, Pope, and Cyprian. Bishop, Martyrs – Memorials

[Jesus] began to teach [the Apostles] that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”  Mark 8:31-33

This was most likely not the reply that Peter was expecting from Jesus.  Peter was struggling with fear as Jesus explained that He would be entering into much suffering and death at the hands of the religious leaders of the time.  Peter loved Jesus and was fearful and anxious about the thought of his Master suffering and being killed.  So Peter, motivated by fear and confusion, tried to “talk some sense” into Jesus.

The result?  Peter was rebuked in the presence of the other Apostles by Jesus.  Jesus went so far as to say, “Get behind me, Satan.”  That must have hurt.

To understand this properly, we must start with the obvious conclusion that Jesus’ words were words of great love.  Jesus is not capable of anything other than love.  Therefore, we must seek to understand how these strong words from Jesus were loving and holy.

The key to understanding this is the second thing Jesus said.  “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”  Jesus had just revealed to the Apostles the deepest mystery of His life mission.  Namely, He just revealed that His mission was to accept unjust persecution and death at the hands of the religious leaders.  But in revealing this, it is also clear that He intended to bring good out of this suffering.  He would not have allowed this suffering if it were not for some greater good.  The hard part is that, in order to understand this great mystery of suffering, one needs a deep faith.  The Apostles were being challenged to see this situation from the divine perspective.  Peter was having a hard time doing so and that is why Jesus had to challenge him so directly.

Jesus’ rebuke was a rebuke of love helping Peter break free of his fear and limited vision so as to enter into this profound mystery of Jesus’ loving sacrifice. 

Reflect, today, upon your own struggle with the Cross of Christ.  His sufferings continue to be made present in our world through the love and sacrifices of His sons and daughters.  When Christians suffer on account of their faith, we must see this from the eyes of God, not the eyes of men.  We must see the divine blessings that accompany such sufferings and we must accept them in accord with the great mystery of God’s plan.

Lord, I too lack the necessary faith to see the blessings that accompany Your Cross, as well as the many crosses I am given in life.  Help me to be purified in my faith so that I can see Your hand at work in all things, even suffering, injustice and persecution.  May I see life from Your perspective alone.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Saints for Today – Saints Cornelius and Cyprian