24th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Ages 6-9): On Divine Things
(Adults, you could read the first paragraph of the reflection to the child, then read the Gospel, and then continue with the reflection.)
In the Gospel last Sunday, we heard about Jesus healing the man who was deaf. We heard Jesus take the man aside, in private, away from the crowd so that they could be alone together. The man could focus on Jesus without any distractions. In the Gospel for this Sunday, Peter tries to do the same thing to Jesus. Peter tries to take Jesus aside to talk to him alone.
Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”
Usually, people ask Jesus questions. They gather around him to hear what he says. No one speaks the way he does. Always, they wonder, who is this? They know his name is Jesus, but they want to know more. This time, though, it is Jesus who wonders. He wants to know what the people have figured out about him.
And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”
John the Baptist was alive, but recently he has been killed. The people have heard this news, yet some of them think that somehow Jesus is John the Baptist. If not him, then they think Jesus is Elijah or another prophet. Elijah and the prophets lived and died long ago. They listened to God and proclaimed what they heard. It seems strange that the people think that Jesus is someone who was once alive but now is dead. They can see that Jesus is very much alive.
Lived, died, and yet now alive. We wonder what the people sense about Jesus. They are getting close to the truth.
Jesus asked them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Now it is the disciples' turn. They travel everywhere with Jesus and listen to him everyday. Have they come any closer to figuring out who Jesus is?
Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
Messiah means "Anointed One." Someone who is anointed has holy oil poured on their head to show that they are chosen by God for an important job or mission. Peter and the other disciples know that Jesus is Chosen by God. The other people of the crowds do not know this yet. They still need to figure this out on their own.
Now that the disciples have figured out that he is the Messiah, Jesus needs to explain to them what he is Chosen to do.
Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly.
Jesus knows that living his life, listening to God and proclaiming the Kingdom of God, will lead to his death. He knows that all the sin and pain in the world will seem to overwhelm him. But he also knows that giving all of himself to God is gift to the world. It is the gift that the world, full of sin and pain, needs. Jesus knows that the Resurrection is on the other side of the cross.
He lives, he dies, he lives again forever.
Jesus is quite open about all of this. He hides nothing. He tells the disciples what he knows.
We love Jesus. We do not want him to suffer and die. Peter loves him, too. He does not want Jesus to suffer and die, either. So,
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
"Rebuke" means Peter tells Jesus how much he disapproves of this teaching. Peter rebukes Jesus for talking about suffering and dying. We wonder if Peter also rebukes Jesus for talking about rising again. Most likely, though, Peter stops listening after hearing the word "killed." Peter wants Jesus to stop talking about dying. He wants him to be silent.
Peter takes Jesus aside. Isn't this what Jesus does with the man who was deaf? Peter wants Jesus to focus on him and not be distracted by anything else.
Hmm. Is Peter the One from whom Jesus should never be distracted? Or is it Someone else?
But turning and looking at his disciples, Jesus rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
Jesus turns and looks at all the disciples. He does not remain aside listening only to Peter. Why?
Jesus calls Peter, "Satan". Many of us are familiar with this name. It is a name used for the Evil One. Is Jesus calling Peter evil? This certainly shocks Peter. He doesn't mean to do what is wrong. Peter does not realize that by pulling Jesus aside to silence him, he is pulling him away from the work of God. "Divine things" are God's things. Jesus says that Peter has not been setting his mind on what God wants, but what he wants. If it is not God's plan, what good is it?
Peter pulls Jesus aside so that he can stop Jesus' words. Peter wants to hide away the talk about suffering and dying. He wants Jesus' eyes on him and not on God. This is not the same as prayer. In prayer, Jesus pulls us aside so that he can speak his Word to us. In prayer, our eyes are on God. We set our mind on divine things. We give God our attention, and at the same time, we have God's attention. Prayer might be private, but it is hiding nothing.
When Peter has the wrong idea,
when he tries to pull Jesus away from God's plan,
when he has his mind set on human things,
Jesus pulls Peter right back to the other disciples. Jesus does not let Peter hide this conversation away. He lets Peter know right away that he has made a wrong choice. Jesus points him back to God.
This is good for us to know. We do not want to pull anyone—including ourselves—away from God. It is good to know that Jesus lets us know right away that the choice is wrong. Jesus points us back to God. Once again, with Jesus, we set our mind on divine things.