Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thursday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 9:1-13; Mark 8:27-33)

The woman had an inoperable brain tumor. The doctor had just told her that he could do nothing more for her. Most likely, he said, she would die soon. Of course, the news troubled the woman and her family. They wondered how the doctor could be so sure. “Should he not have held out some hope?” they asked themselves. Disbelieving the doctor’s prognosis, the family resembled Peter in the gospel today. The chief apostle refuses to accept Jesus’ prediction of the suffering he faces.

We can imagine the thoughts racing through Peter’s mind when he refutes Jesus. He may be thinking that Jesus has power to lay his enemies in the dust. Or possibly that he and the other disciples will defend Jesus if anyone lifts a finger against him. Or even that all the Jews will soon come to recognize Jesus as the Christ. If, as Jesus says, Peter thinks as human beings do and not like God, then Jesus knows all too well how human beings think. He realizes that when push comes to shove, his disciples will fold like a house of cards. Likewise, he perceives the Jewish religious establishment in Jerusalem as too settled to acknowledge a preacher and healer from Galilee as God’s chosen one. Most of all, Jesus knows that human thoughts concentrate on the bread that lasts but a day without considering seriously the eternal banquet which God has promised.

“Human kind cannot bear very much reality,” T.S. Eliot once wrote. By “reality” he was referring to both the trauma of death and the stiff price Jesus paid to remedy that affliction. And so, like Peter we think that we might circumvent tragedy by good genes or right living. Added to that, we fail to grasp the intense and unremitting love that moves Jesus to die for us. Like Peter, we must be shaken out of our fantasies in order to follow Jesus.