Get Behind Me – Dcn. John Stanley

Dcn. John Stanley’s Homily August 30, 2020

“Our Gospel today follows directly from the Gospel that we hear from last week and I think we need to hear this Gospel in order to understand the context and the last Gospel will help us understand this Gospel. If you recall the last Gospel, Jesus was with his disciples in the northern part of Galilee and he heard them discussing things and he turned to them and said, ‘Who do you say the son of man is?’ and it was Peter who stood up and said, ‘You are the Christ, the son of the living God’ and Jesus praised him and he said, ‘Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah for now you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. We all know this Gospel. We all love this Gospel. This is the Catholic Gospel. We love it and it was Peter’s finest hour, but today we come and in the first words of Jesus we hear that he is teaching them that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo his passion and death. For Jesus knew Peter, yes he professed that he was the son of the living God, but Jesus also knew that Peter had a misunderstanding of what his messiahship meant, what Jesus was to be as a messiah for Peter and all of the Jews at that time, they saw the Messiah to be coming like on a stallion as a great military leader. He would come in glory. He would defeat the Romans. He would scatter them and dispel them and he would set up a new kingdom of peace and justice for that is what the anointed one would be and so that’s why Peter took Jesus aside. Peter took the master beside and rebuked him and said, ‘No, may it never be Jesus!’ And Jesus in perhaps the most harsh sternest rebuke that we hear in the Gospel says, ‘Get behind me Satan!’ For Peter’s own words were words that he was actually being a spokesman unknowingly for the evil one in telling his master that he needs to bypass suffering and death. This is the big lie. This is the big lie of the evil one that we too can bypass the cross and suffering and so enter Heaven. It’s ironic that Jesus a few minutes earlier referred to Peter as the rock as the foundation stone of the church and now he’s telling Peter, ‘You’re an obstacle. You’re a stumbling block, a stumbling stone to me. Get behind me!’ In once sense it was to get behind me because you are an obstacle. In another sense it was get behind me and follow me and that’s what he tells us to follow Him.

You know, Peter spoke in the words as Jesus says, he spoke in human terms not as God thinks. He thought as a human and not as God and don’t we all do the same thing? Aren’t we just like Peter? For what we want to do is what Peter did in his mind about who the Messiah is. He wanted to make Jesus into his own image. We want to make God into our own image. What does it mean to think as a human does? Well what motivates us? At its core what motivates human beings is self preservation, security, safety, avoidance of pain. We want to seek comfort. This is how humans think and Jesus said, ‘No, no think as God thinks.’  Now God doesn’t think. God is all knowing, so there’s no reason for him to think, but what is God? The essence of God is love and no the love that we read in Hallmark cards. I think, probably one of the best definitions from the greatest philosopher of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas 800 years ago is that love is willing the good of another. Love is selfless. When we do good for another, when we will it and then when we do it, that is when we love and that is the love of God the love that was shown on the cross. No greater love can we have than the god-man, Jesus Christ, becoming one of us for the purpose of suffering and dying and therefore taking away our sins, but you know being a Christian and being a Catholic is not a spectator sport. Jesus tells us that we must deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him. He speaks in the active sense. We must take up our cross not we must accept our cross which we do. We have to accept our cross, but he wants more. He wants us to take up our cross to be active.

So, last week’s Gospel is a Gospel that we all recognize and it all makes us kind of puff up a little bit. It makes us proud that we are Catholic that we are part of that Church that was founded by Jesus Christ and set up with Peter as the first Pope and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. It’s a wonderful feeling. It’s a feeling of triumph, but you know, we can’t take that feeling and get to Heaven. We can’t get up to Heaven and say, ‘Jesus here’s my baptismal certificate and here’s my first communion and confession and I got married in the Church and I tithed and I did all these things. I’m a member of the club and so where’s the door?’ That’s not how it works. It works as it worked in today’s Gospel, so it’s two part. Last week’s Gospel we hear the profession of faith and we, brothers and sisters, we are here today because we are professing our faith that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. Jesus Christ is our Lord and our savior. That’s why we’re here today. We’re going to profess that in the creed here in a few minutes. So that’s our first step, but the second step is when we go out that door when we go out that door into the world that we put on the real Jesus, not in our own image, but the suffering Jesus the Jesus who loves his fellow man who loves his fellow enemy. This is our faith. This is what will bring us to Heaven. Amen.”