Lectio Divina: 2020-08-28

The group’s thoughts on Matthew 16 21-27

One

‘suffer’

This Gospel is never been one of my favourites; probably because I always have felt guilty of not being a good disciple.

I have being thinking of the current situation; all this suffering in the whole world due to the coronavirus and the parallel economic pandemic. Day after day we are bombed with really bad news. Thus I ask myself: Is it the will of God? Is it part of God’s plan of salvation? Well the Death and Resurrection of His only Son was; if not we would not have had access to the eternal life.

However it is so difficult to find sense in my poor human mind to all of this. And jet, Jesus accepted voluntarily the will of the Father. Shouldn’t we, his disciples, do the same?
Another questions arise: How can I be a good disciple? What am I called to be/ do at these times? Jesus answer is:

renunciation of the self – taking one’s cross – follow me

Today for me this means accept the adversity, trying to cope with the difficulties that appear in each moment and trusting in You, Lord.

One song we sing in our Masses in Madrid, ‘The boat’, comes to me very frequently this summer; it refers to the Lord’s calling to each one of us and the sacrifice the call carries with. At one point it says ‘ My tiredness that gives rest to others, love that wants to continue loving.’

Please Lord be by our side, helping us to be those disciples you want us to be, those that are never tired of doing your will.

Two

Matthew 16 Verse 23

I think Jesus is reminding all of us, so often, we are thinking not as God does but as humans do. We want the easy path, the nice broad path with no twists and turns. Jesus wants us to take up our cross.

What was not easily seen until later was that ,that sacrifice, that cross , was God’s will, and what was difficult was also a blessing.

So I pray Lord , that even when the path is hard, I long to do your will in my life.

Three

Stumbling block.

How like Peter we are. Just when I think God is revealing Himself to me and my faith is on a firm footing, everything slips away and I am stumbling in the darkness. Two steps forward one step back.

I think about the times when I am a stumbling block. But all is not lost. God can use everything to further his kingdom. He sheds light on the choices I make and points me in a new direction. He can use my experience to support another on their journey. Several times over the last few weeks I have read something in a lectio reflection and have identified with the writer. I feel a connection. At that moment God is bringing us together to show how alike we all are, and I don’t feel so alone on this journey.

Four

What a comedown – from “Thou art Peter and on this rock I will build”, to “Get behind me Satan”

“Deny himself and take up the cross” – that may mean something to us, with 2000 years of hindsight and teaching, but what can it have meant to them?

The cross of Jesus, as we know it, had not yet happened. Was it a common phrase at the time? Was Jesus making a literal reference to the future, that they would comprehend only after the event?

I feel acutely the implication of “deny myself” because Jesus very clearly also commanded us to “love the neighbour as the self”, quoting what we call the Old Testament, specifically Leviticus 19:18.

Surely a different use of the word “self”, because I’m confident that Jesus did not directly contradict himself.

There are parts of my self that I would like to deny and shrivel – the separate isolated self, the ego, the part of me that declares independence.

And there are parts that I want to love – the belonging self, the part-of-the-greater-body self, and in that self to love my neighbour who is also a part of that greater body.

The challenge for me is how and where to draw that dividing line, and thus to love and cherish the real me, the authentic self, while denying the false self, sometimes called the ego.

Five

Last week Peter declared that Jesus was the Son of God. He did not think this out for himself but it was revealed to him by God. This week Peter moves back to his own way of thinking and Jesus rebukes him for it. Perhaps Peter should have said look Lord this does not seem a good idea to me but you are the Son of God and your thoughts are not man’s and so I bow to your better judgement. It is not as easy for me to hear Jesus. Perhaps I need to lift my thoughts to God for “checking”. As I lift my thoughts more and more to God perhaps my thoughts will become more and more in accordance with the His will and less and less in accordance with my will. Is this what it means to renounce myself?

Six

Poor Peter, from Rock to stumbling block. I am mindful of the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness. Jesus likens Peter to a stumbling block and Satan – tempting him away from his true path, away from the cross. I don’t think that Peter meant this intentionally but he didn’t want to hear that a Jesus was about to die in Jerusalem. I often wonder when the disciples accepted this was going to happen. Was it when Jesus was actually on the cross? Even thought they knew the scriptures they thought Jesus was going to be a different Messiah. It is so easy to be like a Peter and “not have in mind the concerns of a God, but merely human concerns”

How often do my thoughts get in the way? They may be well intentioned but they are human!

Jesus challenges me in the next verses. “ whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” Powerful words which make me think about true commitment to following Jesus. What does it mean to me to take up MY cross? Not just the troubles and trials that everyone faces but whatever else comes along because I am following him. My will is not always God’s will! It will be hard but “ whoever loses their life for me will find it” What a promise.

Seven

“He who saves his life will lose it”

I guess over the years I read this superficially and thought of others whose lives were engrossed in material gains and ambitions. (Not me, of course!! -as I thought!)

I ask today how I try to save my life? Well, these days I like to eat/drink in a way that is healthy and ethical; I keep cholesterol, blood pressure and sugar at healthy levels and for a decade or more have been vegetarian for the sake of the animals; I try to keep up exercise…

From time to time I follow a new therapy to keep me healthy psychologically, to keep mind and body in sync. (The latest one was Sound.) I do investigate these things to assure myself they are based on nature and not some weird New Age philosophy or even the occult. I do feel that the Lord has led me to all the practices I have taken up..

However, though the body/mind/ spirit connection is important in our Christian walk ,have there been times, I must ask myself, when these interests have got in the way of the more direct God/me relationship in prayer and my responsibilies to pray for others? I have to be aware, keep oil in my lamp and burning, especially in the dark times.I constantly need to keep my focus, watch my use of time.

From time to time I will share these various practices with others. Sometimes I will have the presence of mind to say that “God is in the detail” and that I practise them under him and in a spirit of prayer .Without that, I fear I am passing on something that may indeed help others to live a healthy life -“save ” their physical/mental health/life but what about their real life in God? What about the Life that matters?

Why am I not so free to help bring them into a closer relationship with God? Much beating of the breast here…

Time is short for us all and “in no time”, apparently ,the long-prophesied “Illumination of Conscience ” will happen for everyone. I really ought to be helping others be prepared so that their lives -and mine with them – will be saved on that great day of God’s mercy.

Eight

I found this passage very difficult. It made me face up to my shortcomings, which are many. I know this is what it is supposed to do and Jesus is saying to me. I am talking to you! I feel sorry for Peter. He loved Jesus so much and was horrified at the thought of what Jesus was saying. Then He was called Satan and told he was an obstacle in Jesus’s way. That must have hurt him so much. I am seeing myself in this passage all too, painfully, clearly.

If anyone wants to come with me, he must forget self, carry his cross and follow me.” That is perfectly clear… “For whoever wants to save his own life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Strangely, I understand fully the second half of that sentence but struggle with the first half. I need more time to reflect on this statement so I am left with more questions than answers today.