Is it possible that satan could be speaking through a man of God? One big lesson our Gospel passage this morning teaches us is that we must never assume all our thoughts and inspirations are divinely inspired. As the saying goes, “not all that glitters is gold.”
“Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men” (Matthew 16:23). Is it possible that satan could be speaking through a man of God? One big lesson our Gospel passage this morning teaches us is that we must never assume all our thoughts and inspirations are divinely inspired. As the saying goes, “not all that glitters is gold.”
Jesus was very impressed with Peter when he correctly answered a question of His true identity so much so that Jesus said: “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:17-18).
For Jesus, anyone who is capable of hearing things from God is capable of handling the position of leadership. Peter was made the head of the apostles not because of his age, not because of his academic qualifications, not because of his international connections, not even because of his ethnicity or tribe, but because he was capable of hearing from God.
However, few moments after Jesus had made Peter the Head of the church, Jesus turned around to say to him: “Get behind me Satan…” This immediately tells us that no one is above temptations. It can be heartbreaking when someone of the calibre of Peter (say a priest, a bishop or even the Pope) says and does certain things you do not expect. Peter ought to have known better. Peter should never have tried to dissuade Jesus from the cross because it was precisely for the cross that Jesus took human flesh in the first place.
Jesus did not say “Get behind me Peter,” he said “Get behind me Satan” because Jesus using his power of discernment saw that Peter was not in charge of himself at that moment; that something else was working in him. Jesus did not attack Peter (like most of us would prefer to do), Jesus did not insult Peter. Jesus went straight to the source; he attacked satan, for trying to take advantage of Peter’s new position as the head of the Church.
In today’s first reading, the people of Israel spoke against God once again. This time, due to the absence of water when they came to the wilderness of Zin. They troubled Moses with so many complaints and he could not take it anymore. He and Aaron went to the door of the tent of meeting to seek God’s intervention. God told Moses to take a rod, assemble the congregation and SPEAK to the rock to yield its water.
Unfortunately, Moses was carried away by the complaining attitude of the people. He probably wasn’t paying attention to God’s instructions. He didn’t hear well; he did not discern properly. He did not even believe water would come out from the rock. Instead of speaking to the rock as God commanded, Moses STRUCK the rock with the rod twice and water came forth from it. Moses disappointed God just as Peter in today’s Gospel passage disappointed Jesus. God spoke later to Moses saying, “Because you failed to believe me… you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”
From the foregoing, we can see there is always a need for us to pray for our leaders. Not only are they completely human (capable of error), they are often the object of series of temptations from the evil one. It takes the power of God to avoid making such costly mistakes as we see in the case of Moses and Peter today.
Today we celebrate the life of Saint Dominic, an outstanding preacher. Born in old Castile, Spain, he was trained for the priesthood by a priest-uncle, studied the arts and theology, and became a canon of the cathedral at Osma. Dominic fought against heresy in the church by preaching God’s word to the poor people. His fellow preachers gradually became a community, and in 1215 he founded a religious house at Toulouse, the beginning of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans.) Today we rejoice with all the Dominican Fathers and Sisters, my very good friends and specially give thanks to God for continuing in the footsteps of St. Dominic. Their preaching, their teaching and their work of evangelisation has greatly benefitted the church.
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus, guard my thoughts, my words and my actions especially when I am angry, unhappy or being tempted by the devil. Grant that I may never disappoint you when I am carried away with emotions, Amen.
Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu