Twenty-fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time
1) Is 50:5-9
Psalm 116:1-6, 8-9
2) Jas 2:14-18
Gospel: Mk 8:27-35
About a week after my wife Mary died of breast cancer, I took her wedding dress out of the closet where she had kept it and laid it on the bed and looked at it. Rage welled up in me. I stormed at God. “How could you ever have let this happen? How could you do this to me?”
After shouting for a while, I sat down and cried, and then hung up the dress in the closet and went on with the day. I didn’t feel that God had answered my questions (although, were they really questions, exactly?). But neither did I sense that he was offended by my being angry at him.
I’m reminded of this as I read today’s Gospel. Here, too, someone is angry about suffering and death. The angry one is Peter, and he gets right in Jesus’ face and protests. “No!” he cries. In this case, there is indeed a response. “Get behind me, Satan,” Jesus tells Peter — just about the harshest thing he ever said to anyone.
But the suffering about which Jesus doesn’t want to hear Peter protest is not Peter’s suffering but Jesus’ suffering. Peter wants to stop Jesus from letting himself to be seized by his enemies, tortured and put to death. It is Peter’s attempt to obstruct Jesus on his path to suffering that Jesus finds absolutely intolerable.
As the rest of the Gospel narrates, despite Peter’s protests and disloyalty, Jesus goes ahead with his plan — which is really his Father’s plan — to undergo an excruciatingly painful death in order to clear away our sins and reconcile us to God.
Mary’s death, many years ago, wasn’t the last time I got angry at God. The suffering of people close to me has sometimes driven me to rage at — and plead — with him. A little like Peter, I get right in Jesus’ face. An icon of Jesus hangs on a bedroom wall, and I stand close up to it and tell him my thoughts.
And then I find myself looking into his eyes and thinking, “Here is the one who would not be deterred from suffering the most awful destiny for me and those I pray for.” It doesn’t mean I don’t still feel angry, let alone that I understand. But there is something in his face that is greater than my anger and incomprehension.
When you’re angry at God, what do you say to him?
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Perrotta is the editor and an author of the “Six Weeks With the Bible” series, teaches part time at Siena Heights University and leads Holy Land pilgrimages. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.