First Reading Commentary
Consider your own prayer life. Prayer is a dialogue with our Lord but the scales should be tipped further to the listening side than the speaking side. Our Lord opens ears in order to be heard through His Church, the Scriptures and in the silence of attentive hearts. This is the most beneficial part of our lives; but there is another side: We must daily contend with a secular world in which we can be metaphorically represented by having beaten backs, plucked beards and faces that are buffeted and spit upon. The feelings that can come upon us from the world we live in are often at odds with the peace that rests upon us while at prayer. The trick is to somehow carry that peace into the active life.
As the prophet Isaiah professes that the Lord is his help, we must convince ourselves that dealing with the chaotic side of our existence peacefully will be nearly impossible without spending time each day awakening the contemplative monk that exists within each of us. When that daily time well spent is sent out into the world, our Lord's instructions go with us. And when we are mantled with the divine, who will prove us wrong? That acknowledgement of our Lord being with us not just in the time we set aside for Him but also in the daily grind truly makes the entire day one of unceasing prayer.
It's difficult to accept that there can be faith without works. Could Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta profess to see the Face of Jesus in the poor but avoid the poor like the plague? Could Saint John Paul II repeatedly say, "Do not be afraid" but always remain out of the public eye for fear of his own life? Even contemplatives who are shut off from the world cannot enjoy a beautiful intimacy with the Almighty without a persistent life of prayer.
God has given each of us gifts but we have to discern and identify what those gifts are and put those gifts to use. Not all of us are called to a hands-on ministry with the poor. Not all of us are called to the Pro-Life movement. There are many callings and there are gifts that are parceled out to each of us for one or some of many ministries. Each of us as individuals are equipped for one or some but called to pray for all of them.
Usually around Easter our television sets are bombarded with documentaries which attempt to answer the question: Who is Jesus Christ? In these special programs we usually hear descriptions like Jesus the prophet, Jesus the charlatan and magician, Jesus the fictional character, Jesus the extraordinarily good man, and now what has recently made a mark in the literary and motion picture world is Jesus, the husband of Mary Magdalene. And admittedly some of these producers take a fair approach by attempting to examine the historical Jesus.
There's nothing new under the sun. Two thousand years ago false testimonies were given which sentenced Jesus to crucifixion. Today, false testimonies continue to spew out of so-called scholars, excessively liberal theologians, freelance writers and those who are merely seeking fifteen minutes of fame.
Jesus certainly fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah in the First Reading and in this Gospel Peter tries to alter what must be. Poor Peter, he certainly appears to be noble and heroic by wanting to protect his Lord, only to be called "Satan" by Jesus. After reading this particular passage, perhaps you were reminded of Christ's teaching of turning the other cheek (cf. Matthew 5:39). Is Jesus asking us to be extreme pacifists? The answer to that perhaps lies in Christ's own temptation in the desert (cf. Matthew 4:1-11). Jesus didn't need to find out for Himself if He was able to resist the temptations of the devil. He's God, of course He can resist the evil one! What He was likely doing was exposing the real enemy to us. For mere mortals, with the exception of a few extraordinary saints, the devil keeps himself hidden, making our enemy appear to be flesh and blood.
In the Book of Job there is a bizarre conversation between Satan and Almighty God; bizarre because the exchange has an unexpected cordiality to it. In this meeting between the Supreme Good and the evil one, God gives permission for Job's life to be interfered with. There's a very deep mystery here which can only be explained by words found in this Gospel: “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” It does, however, portray a reality that faithful souls already have confidence in: God is completely in charge; He wills and/or He permits.
Christ's suffering and death being necessary goes far beyond man's boundaries of reason. Also beyond the limits and somewhat frightening is our Lord's command to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. The crosses of our lives, we can deduce from the example of Job, are mysteriously permitted; but as the mystical body of Christ we have to train ourselves to understand that the members are not the enemy. At the same time, we have to be able to weed through our anger and understand what is really evil as opposed to what is part of the natural order, although equally devastating. Death caused by cancer, for example, is not evil; death by euthanasia or abortion is evil. A building destroyed by a tornado is not evil; a building destroyed by a hijacked airplane deliberately crashing into it is evil. Through a divine, mysterious plan, a holy acceptance of all life's little inconveniences right up to the major tragedies strengthens faith and ultimately leads to a life that is saved, and a life that is in an extraordinary, unfathomable communion with God.