In today’s Gospel, after Jesus told the apostles that he must suffer and die in Jerusalem, and be raised on the third day, Simon, whom Jesus named Peter – the rock upon which Christ built his church – steps in and complains to Jesus, “God for-bid, Lord! No such things shall ever happen to you.”
Yes, Simon Peter was new at his job and well intentioned, but he was wrong and needed serious correction. Jesus said to him, “Get behind me, Satan!... You are not thinking as God does, but as human beings do.” For some reason, Simon Peter only heard about the suffering and death, and ignored that Jesus said he would rise again. Often we are all like that, complaining about the difficulty and not seeing the good that God can bring about. God tests us to discipline and strengthens us.
On Monday, August 28, 2023, we celebrated the Memorial of St. Augustine (354-430 AD) who is one of the greatest converts and theologians in the Church. He led a life of many sins and errors, but when he converted at age 32 to the Catholic faith he began the disciplined journey of becoming a great bishop and doctor of the faith and earned the title of “Doctor of Grace.” The following is some of his insightful writing: Whenever we suffer some affliction, we should regard it both as a punishment and as a correction. Our holy Scriptures themselves do not promise us peace, security and rest. On the contrary, the Gospel makes no secret of the troubles and temptations that await us, but it also says that he who perseveres to the end will be saved. What good has there ever been in this life since the time when the first man received the just sentence of death and the curse from which Christ our Lord has delivered us?
So we must not grumble, my brothers for as the Apostle says: Some of them murmured and were destroyed by serpents. Is there any affliction now endured by mankind that was not endured by our fathers before us? What sufferings of ours even bear comparison with what we know of their sufferings? And yet you hear people complaining about this present day and age because things were so much better in former times. I wonder what would happen if they could be taken back to the days of their ancestors – would we not still hear them complaining? You may think past ages were good, but it is only because you are not living in them.
It amazes me that you who have now been freed from the curse, who have believed in the Son of God, who have been instructed in the holy
Scriptures – that you can think the days of Adam were good. And your ancestors bore the curse of Adam, of that Adam to whom the words were addressed: With sweat on your brow you shall eat your bread; you shall till the earth from which you were taken, and it will yield you thorns and thistles. This is what he deserved and what he had to suffer; this is the punishment meted out to him by the just judgment of God. How then can you think that past ages were better than your own? From the time of that first Adam to the time of his descendants today, man’s lot has been labor and sweat, thorns and thistles. Have we forgot-ten the flood and the calamitous times of famine and war whose history has been recorded precisely in order to keep us from complaining to God on account of our own times? Just think what those past ages were like! Is there one of us who does not shudder to hear or read of them? Far from justifying complaints about our own time, they teach us how much we have to be thankful for.
Peace in Christ,
Fr. Thomas McCabe