Bishop Thomas Gumbletonby Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

As we begin a reflection on today’s scriptures, it’s very, very important for us to put these readings, especially the Gospel reading, within the context of the readings over the last few weeks. You may remember, it’s been a number of weeks now, maybe six or seven since Jesus and the disciples began this last journey to Jerusalem. At the very beginning of it, something extraordinary happened, where Jesus had asked the disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is? But then who do you say?” And Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Messiah, the son of the living God,” and Jesus was pleased and said, “Blessed are you, Simon, son of John. Humans have not revealed this to you, but God.” So Jesus was just extraordinarily pleased that Peter had recognized he was the Messiah.

Then, for the first time (and this is so important), Jesus begins to talk about what’s going to happen to him — the same thing we heard today. “We’re going to Jerusalem. There, the Son of Man will be handed over to his enemies,” and so on. Peter says, “No, no, that can’t be.” I’m sure Peter had the idea, “Look, there’s all these people following you,” and Peter was probably thinking in the terms of overthrowing the Romans, the occupying army, and that terrible occupation that was so cruel, and thinking of Jesus as a warrior king, ready to overwhelm those who were against him. And Jesus said, “Get behind me, you Satan” — remember, very harsh, “You’re not thinking according to the ways of God, but you’re thinking in human terms.” Peter was put in his place, and they continued the journey.

And you remember last week, for the second time in this journey, Jesus says to the disciples, “We’re on the way to Jerusalem. There, the Son of Man will be handed over to his enemies.” And again, the disciples just seem not to be able to hear it. Jesus says it, they keep going. Then when they get to the house where they’re going to stay, Jesus says to the disciples, “What were you talking about on the way?” Well, they didn’t answer very quickly, because they had been talking about who is to be the greatest. Again, Jesus is saying to them, “No, you can’t try to strive for greatness in that sense,” and he took a little child, sat that child, not because the child was so charming, but because a child is a symbol of someone who is oppressed, has no rights, very vulnerable. “Unless you become like a child, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. You must give up power, first places, and so on.” …

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