Matthew 16:21-27
'Away from Me, Satan' by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted with the permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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Matthew wrote to show that Christ was the
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.

From that time on, 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 him 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 everyone according to his conduct."

Suffering is not an absolute evil.  In this Sunday's Gospel, St. Peter provides Jesus with the opportunity to teach that suffering can in fact be a good thing.  It can be used by God to bring about a greater good.  Therefore it should not be avoided at all costs.

This passage follows Peter's proclamation that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God.  Jesus praised Peter, gave him a new name, affirmed that his statement of faith had come from the Father, and gave him supreme authority over his new Church.  Now, we see Jesus rebuking him, "Away from me Satan."  What a stark contrast.  Jesus' works are harsh.  Clearly, He had a very important lesson to teach that day.

Peter loved Jesus very much.  He did not want Him to suffer.  Peter's reaction to his friend's prediction of his impending suffering would be a reasonable one in most circumstances.  However, Peter's understanding of Jesus and his mission was incomplete.  Peter still needed what Paul described in Romans: to be transformed by the renewal of his mind so that he could judge what is God's will, what is good, pleasing and perfect.  He did not understand that Jesus had to suffer.  Jesus' mission was to embrace the will of his Father, become sin for us and sacrifice his life on the cross for the salvation of the world.  It would be the greatest act of love the world would ever know.

As Christians, we need to be willing to embrace suffering.  We do not go looking for it; we are not masochists.  However, we must be willing to embrace it when it is sent by God as a means to a greater good.  Just as we suffer when exercising our body for our physical and emotional health, so we suffer when exercising our soul for our emotional and spiritual health.  When we say "no" to our sinful desires, we build virtue and avoid spiritual diseases.  When we fight laziness or fatigue in order to pray, we nourish our relationship with God and give Him fitting worship.  When we sacrifice making purchases in order to give money to the poor, we suffer for the sake of the kingdom.

But Jesus is here to help us.  He invites us to unite our suffering with his on the cross.  St. Paul reminds us of this beautiful reality of our faith when he says: "I beg you . . . offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, your living worship."

We are invited to make such a sacrifice in a very profound way at Mass during the offertory.  The Mass recalls and represents Christ's sacrifice to the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Christ's sacrifice becomes our sacrifice in two ways: first, when we consciously choose to recognize what Christ has done and offer a sacrifice of praise to the Father; and second, when we chose to unite our own suffering with Christ's suffering on the Cross and offer it to the Father as an act of love.

God our Father, transform my by the renewal of my mind that I may know what is your will, what is good, pleasing and perfect.  Help me to grasp in some fashion the supreme beauty of Christ's gift to you of his life on the Cross.  Grant me the grace to consciously and lovingly offer my suffering to You at Mass so that I may worship You in spirit and in truth.

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