Get behind me Satan!
Acting on impulse has become a virtue in modern secular philosophy and is now actively encouraged by secular gurus under the banner of freedom and equality. Yet the dangers of acting on impulse become painfully evident in the realms of social media and blogging. Acting solely on impulse has never been advocated in Christian Philosophy or in Christian Spirituality and our readings for today give us an insight into the reason why.
St Peter was a man who often acted on impulse, as we saw in last Sunday’s Gospel, but in today’s Gospel, Peter is acting on the wrong kind of impulsiveness. Peter starts to argue with Jesus believing that Jesus has got it all wrong about his impending passion and death. Peter was thinking in human terms. Jesus was the Messiah, so he must have come to defeat the Romans and become a great King ruling over Jerusalem and beyond! Jesus says to Peter: “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s ways but man’s”.
Jesus reaction tells us that acting merely on human impulse alone is an obstacle to faith and good decision making. Acting on human impulse without spiritual discernment and prayer leads us into temptation and a spirit of desolation, which is a sign we are moving away from God.
The moral of today’s readings is that acting purely on human impulse without discerning the will of God can lead us to having obstacles in our life of faith. When Peter declares Christ to be the Messiah he does so as he has discerned the will of God and it produced a clarity of mind and peace within and with others – true consolation. When Peter gets it wrong about Jesus and his role as the Messiah it leads to a confused mind and a troubled relationship with God, what we call desolation.
Whenever you act purely on impulse, be on guard as to which spirit is prompting you and whether it is leading you towards God or away from him. Always ask the Holy Spirit to give you the gift of clarity and peace so that his right hand will hold you fast in all things.