From rock to Satan, the Christian mind must be transformed

| Deacon James Stiles | August 28, 2014 | 0 Comments

Stones left by mourners sit in pile on a rock near columbarium at Shrine of St. Therese in Juneau, AlaskaIn the Gospel for Aug. 31, Jesus addresses strong words to Peter: “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me” (Matthew 16:23, NAB). Just a few verses earlier in the same Gospel, Jesus calls Peter blessed and the rock upon which he will build his Church (c.f. 16:17-18). What a contrast — Peter went from rock to Satan!

Peter believed that Jesus was the Messiah, but he did not understand how the Messiah was going to accomplish his saving work. Jesus informs his disciples that he is going to do so by suffering greatly, dying and then being raised on the third day. Peter could not understand at that time how the Messiah could undergo such a fate. Like all of us, what Peter needed was a transformation of his mind.

This transformation comes from understanding how God’s saving plan is accomplished. To the world’s amazement, God’s saving plan was not and continues not to be accomplished through sheer power, but through the sacrifice of love. Jesus says in the Gospel, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). We deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Jesus when we say no to our own selfish desires and say yes to our determination to fulfill the will of God. This is our sacrifice of love.

St. Paul in the second reading urges us to love as Christ loves. He writes, “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). This offering of our bodies as a living sacrifice means to make concrete decisions every day to love. This often means doing ordinary things with great love: e.g., working hard at your job in order to earn the money needed to support your family, changing the diapers of your children, volunteering your time at a food shelter, visiting the sick or imprisoned, remaining faithful to your daily prayers, etc.

These daily choices to love, to deny ourselves and pick up our crosses, are, as St. Paul writes, our “spiritual worship.” This is the Christian way to offer worship to God because it is inspired by and united to Christ’s perfect worship of God when he offered himself on the cross out of love for God the father and for us. This perfect worship of God is made present to us in the Eucharist, and we participate in it by uniting all of our sacrifices of love to his in the Eucharist.

I encourage you to take time to reflect on the ways in which your mind still needs to be transformed into the mind of Christ.

Deacon Stiles is in formation for the priesthood for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. His teaching parish is St. Charles Borromeo in St. Anthony. His home parish is St. Mark in St. Paul.

Sunday, Aug. 31
Twenty-second Sunday in ordinary time


  • Jeremiah 20:7-9
  • Romans 12:1-2
  • Matthew 16:21-27


Do we, like Peter, resist God’s sacrificial love? How can we better make concrete decisions to love God and the people in our lives?

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Category: Sunday Scriptures