No sooner has Christ entrusted the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to Peter, identifying him as the Rock upon which He will build His Church, than Peter is rebuked by Christ, identified as a satan, Hebrew for “adversary.” The limits of Peter’s authority are clear: his role and role of all the popes and bishops of the Church is not to conform the Gospel message of Christ to the expectations of this age, but rather to preach boldly that Gospel, even and especially when that message seems awkwardly received.
We are frequently tempted to be embarrassed by the teachings of Christ and the Church. Desiring to have either a comfortable life for ourselves or to maintain the esteem of those whom we respect, the Gospel message can seem outdated, harsh, irrational, and down right cruel. Like Peter, we would rather avoid the aspects of the Gospel that challenge ourselves or others to experience the self-denial that the Cross requires. However, to empty the Gospel of the Cross is to empty it of the power to give Life. So utterly vacuous does Christianity become that it necessitates an immediate and direct correction from Christ himself. Let us never fear the challenges that the teachings of Christ pose for us. Echoing the words of Paul:
“I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Fr. Richard Hinkley