Sunday, February 25, 2018

set your mind on things Divine

May my words be in the Name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

What an extraordinary scene we are presented with in our Gospel reading today – St Peter, first among the disciples, takes our Lord aside and begins to rebuke him. And this, having witnessed all the miracles, including seeing people raised from the dead, and heard his teaching, and having himself, only moments before, confessed him to be the Messiah. So that he should suddenly dare not just to question what he says, but actually to rebuke him, is extraordinary indeed.

However, we must keep in mind that St Peter acts from good motives – from a human perspective at least. First, he knows that our Lord is the Messiah. And the Messiah, or so all of Israel thinks, is going to be some kind of great military and political leader who will free the Jewish people from their oppressors. St Peter is simply unable to reconcile his idea of what the Messiah to be with what the one he knows to be the Messiah is tells him. And so, rather than changing his thinking in line with the new information that he has – information given to him from the best of all possible authorities – he tries to change what it is our Lord has told the fate of the Messiah must be.

And secondly, we must keep in mind the great love St Peter has for our Lord. This is the man he has given up everything for, has followed around from place to place along the dusty roads of Galilee and Judea and Samaria and elsewhere. Jesus is his master but also his friend – does not our Lord declare elsewhere in the gospels that all the apostles, saving one of course, are his friends? – and surely St Peter as the leader of that group must be the closest of them all. And which of us wants to hear that someone we love and respect is going to suffer and die? We would surely be appalled and do anything we could to prevent it if it were possible. And so St Peter, the disciple, rebukes Jesus, his master and messiah.

But even though the apostle may think his motives are good, our Lord declares that they are not. They are in fact the opposite of good; they are evil – and the worst kind of evil, evil that stems from Satan. How could St Peter, whom we know to have been a good man, if flawed – particularly prior to the Resurrection and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost – how could he have gotten things so badly wrong? It is because he has, as our Lord bluntly tells him, he has set his mind on human things rather than divine. God himself, in the person of Jesus, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, has told him that the Messiah must suffer and die; but this does not fit into his view of how things should be. And so he rebels against it; and in so doing behaves evilly.

There is a powerful lesson from this for our times. The values of the secular culture of the world we live in often run counter to the values we as Christians are called to hold by God – values that have been given to us by way of Divine Revelation in the Sacred Scriptures given to us by God himself and the Holy Traditions of the Church he founded, telling us that his Holy Spirit would guide it into all Truth, and that the gates Hell itself would not prevail against it. But today these teachings and traditions are repugnant to many in the world around us – particularly those who proudly call themselves the liberal elites – people who have no hesitation in calling what God has given to man something that is man-made; and so they have no compunction in declaring God's holy laws, and the commandments he has given to us for our salvation as evil, lacking in compassion, cruel, harsh, impossible to live up to, arbitrary, foolish, and out-dated.

They particularly love to declare them out-dated; because everyone knows the more modern something is the better and more true it is. They fail to see the foolishness of this; for by that logic what they call to be true today will be declared false and replaced by what called true tomorrow; and so truth has no objective reality and becomes nothing more than a passing fashion.

But we can not allow ourselves to be influenced by their false logic – both for their sakes and for our own. For theirs, for such as they need the witness of godly men and women and the world to help lead them to the truth – the one and only truth that is found in the Gospel – and for ours, for the sake of our own salvation. We can not let the opinions of the world influence us, because as Christ tells us, what does it matter if a man gain the whole world if by doing so they forfeit their life – the eternal life that he offers?


And we must be particularly watchful not to be swayed by those who would call us to the false compassion of the world – a compassion that keeps people happy and comfortable and affirmed as they are led astray by the temptations of the world the flesh and the devil, but ends not in salvation but destruction – and instead measure all things according to the standards that God has set before us. Very watchful – for even St Peter was tempted to put those worldly things before what God required – and for this he was called Satan. A hard lesson for him; and a sober warning for us not to do as he did that day; for those who do so and do not repent of it will face the Son of Man on the last day and find him ashamed of them, they will find themselves rejected by him. So we must embrace the Gospel message and cling to it, come what may. It may not win us the approval of those who follow the things of this world; but it will mean that we are keeping our minds on things that are divine, and will one day, with God's grace, bring us to be with him: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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