You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed. All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message; the word of the LORD has brought me derision and reproach all the day. I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.
1) God, you are my God whom I seek; for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water. (Refrain:)
2) Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary to see your power and your glory,
For your kindness is a greater good than life; my lips shall glorify you. (Refrain:)
3) Thus will I bless you while I live; lifting up my hands, I will call upon our name.
As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied, and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you. (Refrain:)
4) You are my help, and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.
My soul clings fast to you; your right hand upholds me. (Refrain:)
I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.
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."
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father's glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct."
(Copyright 1970, 1986, 1992, 1998, 2001 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
Copyright 1970, 1997, 1998 Contraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington, D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
The English translation of some Psalm responses, some Alleluia and Gospel verses and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, some Summaries, and the Titles and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass copyright 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., Washington D.C. All rights reserved.
The poetic English translation of the sequences of the Roman Missal are taken from the Roman Missal approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, copyright 1964 by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission of ICEL.)
- Back when the Flip Wilson Show was still on television, he used to portray a character named Geraldine. He once did a skit as Geraldine where she came home to her husband after a shopping spree at the local mall. When she gets in the door, her husband asks her "Did you find anything?". "Well, there was this very expensive dress in the window, and I heard a little voice telling me, 'Go in and try it on.' So I did." The husband asks: "And then what...?" Geraldine says: "Well, I looked at myself in the mirror, and I heard this little voice whisper, 'You look fabulous in that dress.'" "Well, did you hear that little voice say, 'Get behind me, Satan?'" "Yes, I did. And he said, 'It looks fabulous from the back, too.' So I bought it."
In last week's gospel, we heard Peter respond to our Lord's question "Who do you say I am?" with a resounding profession of faith when he said "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God". Last week, we also discussed how Peter's actions in that episode, as well as in other incidents in the gospels, are so very similar to what would well be our own responses in the same circumstances. This similarity is continued in today's gospel.
As you just heard, our Lord tells the disciples that he will have to go to Jerusalem to suffer and die at the hands of the Pharisees. This information alone would have been enough to send them reeling but he goes on to say that he will have to die by one of the most ignominious forms of torture ever invented by man: death on the cross. Peter responds just as any one of us would if someone we love were to tell us that they must go and do something which would lead, not might lead, but would definitely eventually lead to their death. Our response under such circumstances would probably be something along the lines of "Perish the thought!". So when Peter responds to this information by pulling Jesus aside and saying "God forbid that any such thing should ever happen to you!", we should be able to understand what he is feeling at that time. He was just expressing his concern for someone he cared about a great deal.
But our Lord responds to this advice in no uncertain terms when he says "Get behind me, Satan!" To me, this seems like a response which is much too strong, so perhaps some clarification might be in order. First of all, the word Satan in Hebrew means adversary. Thus, Satan is a word used to describe any force which seeks to deflect us from the way of God; it is any influence which seeks to make us turn back from the difficult way that God has set before us; it is any power which seeks to make human desires take the place of the divine imperative. (1)
Secondly, it is interesting to note that the phrase used here in the Greek is the same as that which was used by our Lord when the devil tempted him in the desert, with one critical difference. In the desert, our Lord spoke to the devil by saying "Begone, Satan!". But here, in speaking to Peter, our Lord says "Begone behind me, Satan!". The theologian Origen, one of the Fathers of the Church, suggested that Jesus was saying to Peter: "Peter, your place is behind me, not in front of me. It is your place to follow me in the way that I choose, not to try to lead me in the way that you would like me to go." If the phrase can be interpreted in this way, then at least some of its sting is removed, for Christ does not banish Peter from his presence, as he did to the devil in the desert; rather it puts him back in his proper place, as a follower walking in the footsteps of Jesus. (1)
But there is a third point to consider here. What made Peter's words especially more tempting to our Lord was the fact that they came from Peter, one of his own followers, someone whom he had just designated as the Rock upon whom he would build his church, someone whom he loved very much. Temptation from the devil himself was one thing, but from one of his own..., well, it was just that much more difficult to reject.
We all know about temptation. Jesus knew about temptation, and it wasn't only in the desert. In his account of the temptations in the desert, Luke adds a very important verse which gives us a clue that these were not the only temptations which our Lord ever dealt with in his earthly life. He says: "When the devil had finished all the tempting, he left him, to await another opportunity". Jesus was tempted in this passage that we just heard. He was tempted in the Garden when he prayed to the Father to take away the cup of suffering from which he was about to drink. His response at that time, "Father, not my will but yours be done" is really what he goes on to tell Peter in today's gospel when he says "You are not judging by God's standards but by man's." In other words, you are not following what is God's will but what is our human will.
Our Lord became one like us to teach us how to live. He was constantly tempted in his life to take the easy way out and to do things which were contrary to God's will but he never yielded to them. In our own lives, we too are constantly bombarded with things which are not good for us, and they go far beyond an expensive dress in a mall window that Flip Wilson was dealing with. Especially as our children prepare to return to school soon, how can we not think about the things which tempt them every day of their lives, things like smoking or alcohol or even worse things like drugs. These are all things that I did not have to deal with in my youth but which our children have to confront every day of their lives.
If our children are able to return to school, how can our thoughts not turn to still other dangers that may await them, dangers like the young men and women at Columbine faced some years ago now? And the consensus after that tragedy was that it might have been averted if only some sensitivity training had been instituted at the school. Perhaps if some youth in the school hadn't picked on Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, 14 more young men and women and one teacher would be alive today. We don't know that for sure, but I think that that is a fair assumption. In his book Goalposts, Bill Sanders recounts the following story.
- At a high school assembly, I had spoken about picking on people and how each of us has the ability to stand up for people instead of putting them down. Afterwards, we had a time when anyone could come out of the bleachers and speak to the assembly. Students could say "thank you" to someone who had helped them, and some people came up and did just that.
Then a senior girl stood up. She stepped over to the microphone, pointed to the sophomore section and challenged her whole school. "Let's stop picking on that boy. Sure, he's different from us, but we are in this thing together. On the inside, he's no different from us and needs our acceptance, love, compassion and approval. He needs a friend. Why do we continually brutalize him and put him down? I'm challenging this entire school to lighten up on him and give him a chance!"
All the time she shared, I had my back to the section where that boy sat, and I had no idea who he was. But obviously the school knew. I felt almost afraid to look at his section, thinking the boy must be red in the face, wanting to crawl under his seat and hide from the world. But as I glanced back, I saw someone who just had to be the boy that she was talking about smiling from ear to ear. His whole body bounced up and down, and he raised one fist in the air. His whole body language said, "Thank you, thank you. Keep telling them. You saved my life today!" (2)
The fact that this type of understanding happened at Columbine and can be documented by the following story:
- As he mourned the loss of his Columbine High School friend John Tomlin at the memorials, strangers put their arms around Adrian Joel and comforted him. It touched Joel, who says it helped him realize he shouldn't judge people until he knows them. "Sometimes I'd just give them a nasty glance because they're gothic or listen to Marilyn Manson, because I don't like gothic people or their music. And now I'm not going to do that any more. Hopefully I can get to know people and give them a chance rather than just shove them aside because of the way they dress."
When Columbine reopened for the new school year in the fall of 1999, students reported that the shooting had helped erase the boundaries and tensions among cliques. Students who once ignored one another spent hours hiding together in labs and classrooms. In the days afterwards, they mourned together. A new bond of shared grief had been created. "It brought our school together more, and people you used to hold grudges against, the grudges aren't there any more," said Alison Reardon, a freshman at the time. "You're grateful for all the friends you have." And parents said they realized, more than ever, how lucky they were to have their children. "When you start to holler at them about cleaning their room, you realized it wasn't that important," says Joyce Brown, whose son and daughter were in the school during the shooting but were uninjured. (3)
Just as any of us does every day of our lives, our Lord faced temptations constantly. As I said earlier, he became one like us to teach us how to live. And when we face those temptations each and every day of our lives, whether it be smoking or alcohol or drugs or the temptation to pick on others, we need to respond as Jesus did: by saying in no uncertain terms "Get behind me, Satan" and meeting that difficult challenge head on. If you are a student, then treat others as you would like to be treated. And parents: love your children, appreciate them and spend some precious time with them. If we all do these things, then truly we will be right where we ought to be: walking in the footsteps of Jesus with the devil far behind us.
1. Adapted from The Gospel of Matthew, copyright 1975 by William Barclay, St. Andrew Press, Edinburgh, Scotland. Reprinted with permission.
2. Courage In Action, copyright 1995 by Bill Sanders. Reprinted with permission from Goalpost: Devotions for Girls, Baker Book House Company. Reprinted in Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul, copyright 1997 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Kimberly Kirberger. Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL.
3. For more information on the aftermath of the Columbine tragedy, please see <b><i><u><a href="http://web.archive.org/web/20000902052453/http://www.datvis.net/fi/columbine/">this site</a></u></i></b> from which this story and reaction was taken.
4. I used a story in a homily back when this tragedy first occured which referred to one of the murdered students, Cassie Bernall, as a martyr for her faith. Some who read that questioned its validity. If you would like to read more about this, please see the web pages at Cassie Bernall: Her Faith Has Touched Us All, Cassie Bernall from Wikipedia and Cassie Bernall. Also, for additional information, please see She Said "Yes": the Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall written by her mother, Misty Bernall.
(Copyright 2014 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan, with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for oral use in whole or in part in local communities. For permission to use in written form, please contact the human intermediary at firstname.lastname@example.org )
Lord Jesus, you came to do the Father's will. Lord, have mercy.
Christ Jesus, you became one like us, suffered and died so that we might gain eternal life. Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you have taught us to take up our crosses and to follow in your footsteps. Lord, have mercy.
Celebrant:Our Lord has taught us that we must have faith in God's will and not in our own. Therefore, confident in our faith that God will hear us, we bring our prayers and petitions before him.
Deacon/Lector: Our response is "Lord, teach us how to follow you".
That the leaders of the Church will show us how to take up our crosses and follow Christ, we pray to the Lord.
That the sick, the terminally ill and those who are grieving the loss of a loved one will find strength in their faith to carry their crosses, we pray to the Lord.
That all those who are afflicted or are in need will come to know God’s abiding presence through our caring concern, we pray to the Lord.
That all teachers, administrators and school personnel will care for the lives entrusted to them during the upcoming school year, we pray to the Lord.
That all of our brothers and sisters will be treated as our equals in the site of God regardless of their race, color, nationality or religion, we pray to the Lord.
That all of those who have contracted the Corona virus will be healed, that those who have died will be welcomed into the loving arms of their Savior who suffered for them and that their grieving families will find strength in their faith, we pray to the Lord.
For all of the intentions we hold in our hearts and which we now recall in silence. (Pause) For all of these intentions, we pray to the Lord.
Celebrant: Gracious Father, your Son has taught us to care for our human family here on earth. Grant us the grace of your Spirit to ease the suffering of others and to help them to carry their crosses. We ask this through Christ, your Son and our Lord. Amen.