Ps 51:12-15, 18-19
USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew.
Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
and he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Then he strictly ordered his disciples
to tell no one that he was the Christ.
From that time on, 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.”
Good News Reflection: Breaking down the devil’s gates
In today’s Gospel passage, when Jesus commissioned Peter to become the rock upon which he would build the Church, he promised that the gates of hell would never prevail against it. Well, has he kept his promise? Or does it feel more like the devil’s territory has been prevailing in our world? Or in the decisions of someone you know? Or your personal life or health? Or your parish?
Jesus did not say that hell would not win battles against the Church. He said that the gates of hell would not win. Gates don’t attack! Gates protect whatever has been fenced in by keeping out those who are unwelcome.
Who are the gates of hell protecting by keeping them out of the Church? Everyone we’re called to evangelize.
Christians are called to take the offensive — we are to attack the very gates of hell, knock them down, swarm into the enemy’s territory with the sword of the Spirit (the Word of God) and carry Satan’s victims to Christ through our prayers, our outreach, and our love. We are supposed to be helping Jesus rescue people from their old world of sin, supporting them as they limp into God’s kingdom, showing them the way, and helping them understand the world of true faith.
That was the mission of Christ, and it is now the mission of his Body on earth, the Church (all of the Church, you included). When the devil’s territory seems to be encroaching — when the powers of darkness seem to be conquering the light — it’s only because we’re doing too little in and through Christ. We are the Body of Christ on earth; we are his hands and feet and voices and arms that embrace others with his love.
Demons take advantage of the vulnerabilities of sinners. They use easily-tempted people as instruments of their strategies against God’s love. We defeat those strategies whenever we find a way to reach the hearts of unbelievers with the love of Christ.
Take an honest look at what the devil is doing in your workplace or family or parish. Think about how you have been wounded by the sins of others. Recall your concerns for those who are living in darkness. In each case, who is the devil using? (Note: I’m not talking about demonic possession but the evil that is accomplished when people do not follow the ways of God.)
Identify the people who are instruments of evil, and you will know where to find the gates of hell. Go knock them down! It takes effort, it takes much prayer, it takes time, and it takes teaming up with others who will fight with you in God’s army (saints and angels as well as God’s friends here on earth).
It also requires persistence, continually giving God’s unconditional love and lots of forgiveness and mercy while taking a firm stand against injustices. It requires sacrifice and a willingness to endure attacks. But oh is it worth it! There is no greater way to live than as a victorious warrior of Christ’s kingdom!
Beloved Lord, help me to be docile and to let myself be guided by the Holy Spirit. May Your word bear abundant fruit in me so my thoughts and works will be Your light in the darkness. Amen.
© 2018 by Terry A. Modica