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Gospel Lectio Divina for the Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time -September 3, 2023

Gospel Lectio Divina for the Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time -September 3, 2023

By David Kilby

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.


Mt 16:21-27

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly

from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, "God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you." He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world

and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father's glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct."

Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.

Every week it seems Jesus is presenting us with challenging words. Oftentimes, we’re probably thinking he is going too far by saying such things. This week is no different. Yet, there are still those who try to soften the gospel, making Jesus seem malleable and weak instead of firm and meek. “Get behind me, Satan!” That is what Jesus would have said to those who present his teachings as soft and changeable. His words, rather, are hard to take and strong. And they make us stronger. He doesn’t shy away from hardship, and he doesn’t spare us from it either. In fact, he practically dares us to follow him into his trials. 

Peter went to Rome after Jesus died. He was afraid because he knew he would probably die from persecution there. So he walked away. Then he saw a vision of Jesus walking toward Rome and knew he had to follow. As he gave into his fears, he may have heard Jesus saying, “Get behind me, Satan!” It was the same situation. In this Gospel passage, Peter tries to stop Jesus from dying. When it came time for his own martyrdom, he also tried to prevent it. It’s hard to say any of us would have done differently in either situation. But Jesus’ response to this fear is hard: “Get behind me, Satan!” It’s Satan that is telling them to avoid dying. It’s Satan who seems to be even defending Christ, trying to prevent his death. It was Satan who told Peter to turn away from Rome so his life may be spared. Sometimes we forget that Satan was an angel of light, and sometimes that light will lead us away from the darkness that will bring our redemption.  

You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.

The story isn’t going the way Peter expected it to go. More often than not, that is the way it is with God’s will. If we knew what to expect next on God’s path for us, it would be our own will that we are following and not his. The goal is to make our will and God’s will one and the same, but even then it is wise to have reckless abandonment from our expectations. If the Gospel story went the way Peter expected, and the way we probably would have expected it if we were in his shoes, there’d be no point in Jesus inviting us into the story. The paradigm may have shifted in recent generations, but the main objective of a story has always been to teach. That is why Jesus told so many parables. It was his unique way of teaching. That is why, when we were children, we were told stories that had morals. When we were done, our parents or teachers would ask us, “What’s the moral of this story?”

Peter was completely missing the moral of the gospel story. He failed to notice that in order to establish God’s kingdom on earth, sacrifices had to be made—big sacrifices. Even though Jesus told the disciples, “Unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it remains but a seed,” they didn’t get the message. They wouldn’t really get the message until they received the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. This is true for all of us. We receive an understanding of God’s will through the Holy Spirit, not our own intellect, so that none of us may boast. I can say Paul said something like that, but it really wasn’t him saying it. It was the Holy Spirit speaking through him. And so it is for all of Scripture. God doesn’t think as humans do, and so humans need God to change their way of thinking in order to see his will. 

"Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

I’m imagining these words echoing in Peter’s ears as he walked into Rome. This whole conversation with Jesus was probably running through his mind. “Take up his cross” has come to mean many things in our times, but when Jesus said it he was being literal. When he said it to his disciples, they weren’t thinking “What is my cross?” They weren’t thinking of it metaphorically like we have come to think of it these days. To them, the cross was not a metaphor, but a gruesome, excruciating death penalty. Jesus’ sayings are hard. But with love, all things are possible. When you love someone, you look for ways to express that love. If the only way to express it requires pain, there is even a sweetness in that pain because love is stronger than suffering. That is ultimately what I think Jesus is getting at here and throughout the gospel. Love is greater than suffering, and if we avoid love for fear of suffering then we are missing out on the greatest thing life has to offer out of our fear of something much smaller. Yes, all of our sufferings can become small when accepted through our love for Christ and one another. 


Dear heavenly Father,

When you suffered your passion for us, it was the most palpable expression of love the world has ever seen. I say that I am looking for some way to show my love for you in a similar way, but I cannot know if that desire would stand up to the test. We are not threatened with death of any kind here in the world if we follow you, let alone death on a cross. So, I seek out some white martyrdom, but in the mundaneness of modern life, my love for you grows timid for lack of opportunities to genuinely express it. I do not mean to make an excuse. This is a serious problem, and I’m sure others struggle with it as well. Many of us are looking for a passionate, deeply devoted, genuine way to show you our love, but don’t know how in this society where mediocrity reigns. My prayer is for me and all who struggle with this strange dilemma. Show us what you want our passion to be. Show us what we must suffer to genuinely express our love for you, and for all the things and people in our lives that we love.


Ask God, “Lord, what do you want me to do today?” Or better yet, the night before, ask him, “What do you want me to do tomorrow?” And then listen. He will tell you if you listen carefully enough. Through some Scripture verse, or some subtle intervention only you can understand, he will tell you. We can modify that question and ask, “Lord, what cross do you need me to pick up today or tomorrow?” But it’s important to be intentional about it. We cannot know God’s will if we are not intent on finding it. It’s not going to just fall in our lap. Many of us are looking for something we could passionately devote our lives to. We’re looking for a way to show our love for something through suffering. This kind of calling is found through prayer because such a mission comes from God. And the most important part of prayer is the listening part.

Kilby is a freelance writer from New Jersey and managing editor of Catholic World Report.  He received his undergrad degree in humanities and Catholic culture from the Franciscan University of Steubenville. In addition to working with the Knights of the Holy Eucharist (, he has served as a journalist for Princeton Packet Publications, and the Trenton Monitor, the magazine for the Diocese of Trenton. Some of his published work can also be found in St. Anthony Messenger, Catholic Herald (UK), and Catholic World Report. For the latter he is managing editor. Find more of his writing at

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