February 16, 2017
Thursday of the sixth week
Tempted in Every Way
We know from the letter to the Hebrews that Jesus is able “to sympathize with our weakness, since he himself was tempted in every way that we are, yet never sinned” ( Heb. 4:15).
In our gospel today we witness one of those temptations. Peter comes to the realization that Jesus is the Messiah. But then he goes a step further and assumes that Jesus will now establish his kingdom on this earth, take over the leadership of the Jewish people and free them from the oppression of their Roman conquerors. So thinks Peter: the sky’s the limit – Right? But Jesus says, “Wrong”! Jesus tells all his disciples that his way on earth will be one of suffering and death. Peter doesn’t like that scenario at all. He doesn’t want to see his Master as the suffering servant prophesied by Isaias.
Remember Monday’s reading from Genesis, where God told Cain: “Sin is a demon lurking at the door … Yet you can be his master?” That demon was certainly lurking at Jesus’ door there at Caesarea Philipi in the person of Simon Peter himself. Jesus was not a masochist, looking forward to suffering and death. Still he recognized Peter’s challenge as temptation – to circumvent God’s plan for salvation and he would not be party to that. That’s why he was so harsh in saying, “Get out of my sight, you satan!”
We know the rest of the story. How Peter continues to be a disciple and follow Jesus, but he’s weak in the face of temptation. He denies he even knows Jesus after his arrest. Yet the Lord never gives up on him; he sympathizes with his weakness for he has experienced temptation himself.
How far are we willing to go in following Christ? Where do we draw the line? Jesus asks each one of us, as surely as he asked Peter: “Who do you say that I am?” It’s always tempting to avoid the cross when the reality of following Jesus slaps us in the face. Still, at those times we can take courage from Peter’s perseverance. He turned out pretty well in spite of the many occasions on which he just blew it. We will too if we never stop starting over after we’ve made a wrong choice and repented of our sin. As we approach the altar for communion, let us recommit our hearts and lives to Jesus and ask him for the grace we need to be his disciples this day.
Damian Towey, C.P.