Gospel Meditation: The Conditions of Discipleship
I offer a guided Ignatian meditation on today's Gospel. This is an invitation to let the scripture enter into your heart and mind and speak personally to you. Ignatius said that meditation specifically engages our memory, thoughts, and will. We hear the word of God, and we ponder it, noticing any words, images, or ideas that speak to our hearts. And we speak to God about all of this.
If this way of praying is new – simply relax and try to become engaged in the text. Try not to worry about what you are “supposed to” be doing. If you find yourself distracted during your prayer, very gently bring yourself back to the scripture text.
If at any point during the guided meditation the scripture comes to life in such a way that God invites to you stay with a particular moment, follow the invitation that you sense, rather than move on to where the written meditation is going. In that case you might want to stop reading and continue on your own.
Background to the text
In last week’s gospel, we heard Peter proclaim Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus rejoiced. Peter, it seemed, had finally understood! Today’s passage follows directly on from last week’s. Now that Jesus has been revealed as the Christ, the Messiah, he begins to explain what that means. His explanation is different than what Peter and the other disciples expected. Their idea of the Messiah was a warrior who would set Israel free from its conquerors. Instead, Jesus proclaims a liberation of another kind.
Quiet your body and mind
- Choose a position where you can be relaxed but alert.
- Breathe deeply several times and let your body relax
- Breathe out any worries or stressful thoughts and put them in God’s hands
- Become aware of God’s presence here with you now, looking at you with love.
Ask for a grace
- Ask God for the the grace to think as God does.
Read the scripture passage
Read the passage slowly twice, savoring the words. The first time, just listen to get a sense of it, to hear what is being said. The second time, notice any word or phrase, image, or idea that speaks to your heart or “shimmers” for you. Stay with that word, image, or idea and ponder its meaning. Notice how it makes you feel. Savor the experience.
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.”
Jesus has just finished blessing Peter for speaking the revelation that Jesus is the Christ. And now, he begins to explain what that means – that he must suffer, be killed, and then be raised. Imagine how the disciples might have felt at hearing this. How sudden the switch was from joy in having Jesus’ identity acknowledged among themselves, to talk of death and suffering. How confusing the phrase “raised on the third day” must have been. How does this change in tone affect you?
Jesus calls Peter an obstacle to him, to what he must do. Peter is in the way of Jesus’ mission because he is thinking as human beings do, and not as God does. What in your life might be an obstacle to your own living out the mission of love God calls you to?
Jesus fleshes out what he means by the way God thinks – that there is a cost to discipleship. It’s not all about glory. That following Jesus means sacrifice. That clinging to things anything other than God – material possessions, wealth, status – gains us nothing in the Reign of God. Is there a situation in your life where you are being invited to think more as God does rather than as human beings do?
Take a few moments to talk with Jesus about all you have reflected on, and what you are feeling and thinking right now. When you are ready, close with a favorite prayer.
Review of Prayer
St. Ignatius recommends that we review our prayer. A written review has many advantages. It enables us to look back on our prayer experience, and to notice what happened. It allows us to be fully present to our experience of prayer. We do not write while we are praying. The review of prayer enables us not to judge ourselves or look for how well we are doing. It helps us to become more sensitive to how God is speaking to us in the here and now. It is also a precious record of our journey with God, which nourishes wholeness and integration.
Some questions to assist with your review:
What happened in your prayer?
What feelings did you experience?
During the prayer period, when did you feel encouraged?
When did you feel discouraged?
Did you receive the grace you asked for?
What did you receive?