In reflecting on the readings for today, it occurred to me that we may at times be guilty of a “Goldilocks” mentality when it comes to our understanding of how God works. Somethings can appear too soft, I am supposed to offer mercy and forgiveness to my enemies—where is the backbone there! Why do I have to love those who do not love me back—what about my rights? Where is “my” justice?
Additionally, I am called to pick up my cross and die to myself? What about my goals and objectives, my plans for my life? Isn’t it my life after all? That is too hard.
So I look to the “just right” comfort and make the necessary adjustments to my theology. Then the bears arrive home and I am rudely awakened!
It seems to me that Peter is experiencing that mentality in today’s gospel-he has it all worked out. He is in the presence of the Lord’s anointed—the Christ! He has left everything at Jesus’ invitation and perhaps he expects to live out his life with Jesus-in the flesh, walking the dusty roads of Galilee bringing the good news. What a life! He receives a rude awakening following his rebuke of Jesus as he (Jesus) foretells his passion.
“Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
I doubt Peter’s self-image was to be an obstacle to Jesus’ ministry. Yet, throughout the gospels, Jesus is constantly “course correcting” Peter’s assumptions. In this particular text, Jesus leaves the conversation with Peter and summons everyone around him to offer a deeper context to his followers. Moving from his first invitation to: “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men” (Mk 1:17), he adds the invitation to “take up the cross”. Like Goldilocks, might we wish to flee to safety?
The first line from Isaiah grabs the listener: “The Lord GOD opens—present tense, not passed—my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled……” Our response to what God initiates is not a passive movement; rather, this represents a conscious effort to embrace God’s will in our lives. It offers little comfort in the context of “free from suffering and saving our own lives” yet; by its very bearing it offers the comfort of Mystery: God’s sustaining nearness.
The book of James suggests the difference for the Christian. It is not enough to wish our brothers and sisters goodwill—this is passive and not worthy of the cross bearer. Our call is to demonstrate our faith from our works; to be a Christ in the world offering God’s sustaining nearness. Prayer answered through our actions; those works are the fruit of our faith. May we be free to let go of our expectations for our lives when God is calling us to a deeper journey with him.
May we not settle for comfort and fall asleep but rather may God open our ear to hear the cries of the poor—blessed be the Lord!
Jean Bowler is a retreatant at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, and a member of the Office of Mission Effectiveness Board of Holy Cross Province.