Author: Ian Harris
For better or for worse, it’s safe to say we all act a bit like our friends. We pick up mannerisms, things they say, things they like, and even find ourselves thinking like them in certain situations. These things aren’t picked up by one friend deliberately teaching another, but rather it just seems to happen naturally as they spend time together. I think this is also very true in the spiritual life.
Jesus was beginning to teach the apostles about was to come and the suffering he was going to endure. Peter tries to get Jesus to stopping saying such things saying that, “No such thing will ever happen to you!” This prompts Jesus to tell Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” Pretty harsh words for the same man that had so proudly proclaimed Jesus to be the Messiah not long before. I think in order to understand why Jesus said what he did we need to look more at the reasoning that Christ himself gives Peter.
“You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” At first glance this doesn’t really sound like a legitimate reason for Jesus to be upset, I mean Peter is a human being so wouldn’t it make sense that he thinks as one? This may be true if our God was impersonal and kept his distance from his creation, but we know that is not the case. Our God is one that has been chasing after us from the very first moment that humanity turned its back on him, and even though he’ll never force his love on us he’ll never stop using everything he can to bring us back. He wants to know us personally which is exactly why its possible for us to think “as God does”.
It also may be helpful to ponder how God thinks. We often hear how God is merciful and loving, but I feel that it often goes overlooked that he is present. What I mean by this is that he experiences everything as it occurs, there is no past or future, only the present moment. Yes, I know it sounds trippy, but I think its important to notice. When we are obsessing over mistakes made in the past and possibilities in the future we are not thinking as God does. It is good to plan and good to be prepared, but it is also important to take in the gifts that he is currently giving. The saints thought about their future and had the goal of Heaven, but they did not get there by sitting around waiting for it. They got there by using that goal of being intimately close with the Lord to fuel their mission on earth of being present to the poor and the needy. Even if we are merciful, loving, and kind it is wasted if those virtues are being saved for some future, and we are failing to love the person right in front of us. If we are to think as God does, then that means we must truly be present to those around us.
It’s one thing to know that God wants us to think like Him, but another to actually do it, so how do we? Well, how do we pick up different things from our friends? We spend time with them, and that time is not always “productive”. We can spend time with God the same way. There’s been times where I’ve steered clear of prayer because I didn’t think I really had anything to talk about or any big life choices to discern. This didn’t excuse me from praying. It’s great to bring choices, issues, struggles, and everything else in our mind to the Lord in prayer, but I also believe there can be a lot of fruit in going into to prayer with nothing in particular on our minds. It is not always necessary to know what your praying for in order to pray. Not every parish has it constantly available, but I would strongly encourage you to try this “aimless” prayer in front of the Jesus in the Eucharist during adoration. By constantly returning to prayer and the sacraments I think we can find ways to avoid being obstacles to the Holy Spirit, and to be truly present and loving to those around us.
St Peter, Pray for us!