Rock or Stumbling Block?

Matthew 16: 13-23
Nm 20: 1-13 / Psa 95

“But what about you? Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
(Matthew 16:16)

Our faith in Jesus is the rock
Upon which we depend and stand;
Just as pride is the stumbling block
To understanding God’s command.

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Then He asked them, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then He ordered His disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Messiah. From that time on Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matthew 16:13-23)

Reflection

Peter must have been so puffed up with himself when Jesus commended him for giving the right answer that he thought he could take the liberty of denying what our Lord had just predicted would happen to Him, saying, “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” What chutzpah! Jesus had to put Peter in his place, saying, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me!” In one moment his insight was revealed by the Father in heaven, but in the next instant he was under the influence of Satan because his concern (motive) was merely human.

How ironic that the foremost apostle who gave the right answer to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” turned out not to know who Jesus really was as the Messiah in terms of His mission on earth. Peter’s idea of the Messiah, like the rest of Jesus’ followers, was a political leader who would save the Jewish nation from the Roman occupation forces. This was the “seed” that Satan planted in their minds to subvert the plan of God to save mankind from eternal damnation.

Today’s Gospel tells us that it is only by divine inspiration that we will come to know Who Jesus Christ really is, and it is essential that we know Him intimately in order to understand our faith. Our faith in Jesus is the rock on which we stand against all the adversities and disappointments that we will inevitably face in this life, just as Jesus had to carry His cross and endure an excruciating death for our sake. There will be times when our faith in Him will be put to the test – something or someone precious might be taken away from us, or we might be struck down by a debilitating disease – but we must not allow human concerns to take precedence over the concerns of God. We cannot question the Lord for the “wrong things” happening in our life. We just have to trust Him that whatever happens is for a greater good, and for our sake. Ultimately, the reward of God’s love is so much greater than all our pains and trials.

Grant us, dear Lord, the grace to be steadfast in our faith when we are faced with difficult situations we do not understand. Only by Your Spirit’s inspiration and guidance will we come to discern Your loving plans in our life. May we come to know our Lord Jesus more intimately through His Word in the Gospel. Amen.

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