Peter responding to the question “who do you say I am” boldly proclaims “you are the Christ, the son of the living God.” Peter must have been emboldened by Jesus’ response to his insight – …”blessed are you Simon son of Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my heavenly father and so I say to you, you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church…”
Simon praised by the messiah and filled with insight listens intently to Jesus speaking about how he must suffer and die. Since he now has a direct line into the revelations about Jesus he decides to counsel him so he takes him aside to give Jesus his insights about his mission and it was not for Jesus to suffer and die. What Jesus said in reply must have shocked him – you Satan you are thinking as humans do not as God.
He could have responded to Jesus with the same words as Jeremiah “…you duped me O Lord and I let myself be duped.” How can we get it right if the “rock” on which the church is built could not get it right? How can we get it right if Jeremiah, the great prophet, feels as if God has deceived him?
Jeremiah’s problem is that he listened to God and as a result was arrested, imprisoned and was depressed by his rejection by the very people God sent him to give witness to. Peter’s problem was his vision of God was muddled by his own vision of what the messiah should be and do for him.
This should make us question our own journey of following Jesus. We can easily be duped into believing that if we follow the rules, “…do what is right and walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8) then we are doing all that is required of us. We will attain the promises of God and we like Peter can be puffed up on our ability to please God. Yet, we know if we listen to God speaking to us through the scriptures we will discover more is required of us.
The story of the man who asked Jesus what he must do to inherit everlasting life is clear about what must be done and just following the commandments was not enough – “sell everything you have and follow me” (Mt. 12:16ff) is the requirement. Seek first the kingdom of God is the requirement. If we give God our hearts then all the other things we do flows from our love of God and not from our own will power to do what is right.
See we are duped, not by God but by our own sense of expecting to be rewarded for doing the right thing, into believing we just have to go to church on Sunday, follow the laws of the church and do some volunteering and that is all that is required. Yet we fail to see how that is exactly the kind of “human thinking” that Jesus says is an obstacle to him teaching us how to truly live and be fulfilled – how to be Peter instead of Simon.
Jesus is clear on this surrendering of self in order to open ourselves up to being transformed by the Holy Spirit. He tells us clearly not to allow ourselves to be influenced by human thinking about how we must be listening to him and not our selfish desires to be rewarded for doing what should flow naturally from our changed hearts. We are told “…not conform ourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of our minds, that we can discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (Rom. 12:2).
In order for us to become disciples instead of church goers we must put ourselves into a position where we can allow Jesus’ words to admonish us like it did Peter that day. We must allow ourselves to be used as Jeremiah did even when it means that our words and actions cause us derision and rejection because we are not conforming to the norm of someone’s sense of what is the right way to be Catholic.
What these readings are saying to us is to wake up and open our eyes, ears and hearts to the words of Jesus calling us to more. Not for us to do more but to be more by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit leading us, speaking to us and moving within us as we become what Peter became – one who fully understands the depth of God’s love, the freedom of forgiveness of our sins, and the call to be witnesses of these things.