Jeremiah 31: 31-34
The first reading speaks of great changes coming to Israel’s people, changes that will come from God and will be established in a new way, not in fear and retribution, but in love. "I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts." What a beautiful gift we have been given to be able to witness how the relationship between God and humanity is evolving and growing; how the sins of the past are being forgiven and a new covenant, initiated not by a punitive master but by a God who will reveal Himself in love and in relationship to us, is being created.
Then in the Gospel, we read of Simon Peter speaking a great insight that God has indeed written upon his heart: About Jesus he says, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus is aware that this knowledge has come from God Himself and that Peter, in allowing himself to be the vessel through which God can speak, is the rightful shepherd of Jesus’ flock when He is gone. The bond between God and humanity is evolving yet again to an even greater place of depth and trust, evidenced in the building of this new Church: "Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." This is not a God who is disinterested, uninvolved or merely observant of us. This is a God who loves us enough to give us His only Son, who allows us to be heard and engaged in the workings of heaven itself.
Later in the Gospel Jesus returns to a painful reality. He knows that the time is coming when He will suffer and be taken from the disciples and they are beginning to understand it more fully, too. Peter speaks once more, this time not with God’s words but with words that are based in a rejection of God’s truth, a truth that is painful and fearsome. Jesus reacts to Peter’s dismissal, "Get behind me, Satan!..You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do." Jesus cannot be more clear in responding that the fears that cloud our thinking, or our desire to reject God’s truth and make it something other than it is, take us farther and farther away from Him and from all that is good.
Of course we know that despite Peter’s faltering in that moment, and despite his later denial of Jesus, God remained faithful to Peter and Peter to God. As God had promised in the first reading, a new covenant was being given to us; a covenant in which wrongs could be forgiven and trust would endure if only we would be willing to hear God’s word written lovingly upon our hearts.