August 31, 2008, Year A
Twenty-Second Sunday In Ordinary Time
By Dennis Hankins
Theme: An Unholy Influence
The thoughts and imaginations of our heart can be an obstacle to the plan of God.
Peter takes Jesus aside to discuss Jesus' intention to go to Jerusalem to suffer, die and rise again on the third day. Since this was a private conversation we can assume Peter spoke about it years later. From the realms of revelation, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," to "God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you," Peter imagines there is another way for salvation's story to unfold. Peter's concerns and Peter's confession are in a tug-of-war. Jesus address Peter's concerns as under the influence of an unholy spirit. "Get behind me, Satan!" Jesus says, "Your are an obstacle to me."
Afterwards, Jesus speaks to all of his disciples about the fullness of sacrificial life and living. All of us, under the mercies of God, are called to live detached from the spirit of this age. Many unholy influences abound to weaken our resolve to 'offer our bodies as a living sacrifice.' The Fathers and the Mystics of the Church wrote much about the satanic spirits that seek the ruin of our soul. They and the readings today speak of the emptiness of gaining the whole world and losing ones' soul. Forfeiting the transformation of a renewed mind, is to exchange the high way for the low and mundane way of existence. The wrenching question Jesus leaves with his disciples is, "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?" (emphasis added)
Unless we have a thirst for the Lord, we will remain spiritually parched, dry and barren. As a lad in the Pentecostal church of my youth, I remember praying earnestly that the Lord would use me, that he would not have a reason or cause to refuse me, and that somehow he would have in me full and unhindered authority in my life. I believed then and still believe based on the readings of the day, there is still a need to place ourselves under the most holy influences and practices of the Christian life.
Jesus showed his disciples the path of life. The way the world thinks is a hindrance to the life that calls us to be one in prayer with the Holy Spirit. Even the world in its resistance to the truth may bring us to less resistance of the world, the flesh and the devil. Unholy thoughts and imaginations may grip our heart.
The Joker in the movie The Dark Knight, implies that evil can do no wrong. He views all things, all events in Gotham City and even BatMan himself as under the irresistible reign of evil that can do no wrong. Ultimately BatMan, the Joker thinks, must come to the conclusion that he and BatMan can be one because there is nothing different about what each one wants and needs. Because the Joker is adept in convincing others of his cause, he manages to make BatMan a villain to be caught in Gotham City. While Joker can do no evil in a wrong way, BatMan cannot convince the city he is only doing what is right for the city the right way.
Not to put too fine of a point on it, and not to suggest Peter has anything in common with the Joker, except in this, Peter believes there is a no wrong way to understand Jesus' mission. This is the hub of the spiritual life. Here is where the battle rages and the thirst of the soul and the soul's quest for the living God ensues. In our spiritual development we can meet Satan disguised as an angel of light.
The spirit of the day hopes to silence the voice of Christ in us and through us. But the fire that burns in our hearts and bones cannot be silent long lest it goes out. "Quench not the Spirit," says St. Paul. "Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me," says Jesus. There is a life of oneness with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. If we will but lose our life for Jesus' life, detach ourselves from the cares of this life, be consumed in the love of his heart, only then can we healed of the blindness caused by the god of this world. Then will the thoughts and imaginations of our heart be pleasing to the Lord.
Let us pray: Dear Jesus, search me, try me, test me, and see if there be any wicked way or imagination in me. My heart yearns for the love that thinks no evil; for the love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. I open my heart to the sacred heart of Jesus. Amen