AS YOU THINK

This coming weekend we mark 20 years since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on our nation. That Tuesday morning, 19 men associated with the Islamic extremist group al Qaeda hijacked four passenger planes filled with innocent people.

Those hijackers flew three planes into buildings crowded with men and women beginning their workday.

The fourth plane, headed for Washington, DC, crashed before it reached its target due to the heroic actions of its passengers.

That day, 3,000 people were murdered and the hearts of all Americans were flooded with sorrow and fear.

Those terrorist attacks did not happen because on the morning of September 11 a group of men suddenly decided to hijack airliners and turn them into weapons. Those attacks happened because of what was in the minds of those men for months and years before.

Their thinking had become warped and misguided. They thought by killing their fellow human beings, they would be doing something worthy of a heavenly reward. They thought their acts of terrorism would bring about something good. They thought they would be acting as avenging angels and martyrs to a righteous cause.

Their warped thinking resulted in evil actions.

This Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 8:27-35) gives us an example of wrong thinking that leads to wrong conclusions – conclusions that Jesus strongly condemns and corrects.

In that Gospel, we hear Jesus ask his disciples who they think he is. Peter replies, “You are the Christ.” He identifies Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah.

But when Jesus starts to speak about his future rejection, suffering, and death, Peter takes Jesus aside and rebukes him. In Peter’s way of thinking, the Messiah was to be a person of power and authority who would restore the greatness of the Chosen People.

In response, Jesus rebukes Peter and says, “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.’” Jesus tells Peter that his thinking about the Messiah is wrong; it is not in line with God’s thinking.

Peter was so wrong that Jesus declares, “Get behind me Satan.” Perhaps Jesus responded as he did because in the words of Peter, Jesus heard an echo of the words that Satan had spoken to him during his time of temptation in the desert. There Satan had tempted Jesus to be a Messiah of power and glory, a Messiah like the one Peter expected.

Thinking as the world thought led Peter to misconstrue the mission of the Messiah. It led him to urge Jesus to abandon the path God had set for him.

As Christians we need to take care not to be overcome by wrong thinking. For we live in a society that abounds with wrong thinking that is opposed to the thinking of God.

Our society has people who think that marriage can be redefined; that the family is a confining, societal construct that has outlived its usefulness; that sex is changeable; that unborn children have no rights; that drugs are recreational; that pornography is harmless; that moral standards are oppressive; that religion and belief in God are for the feebleminded; that wealth and social status convey wisdom; and that human rights are granted by governments and do not come from God.

When such thinking enters our minds, our faith – our thinking as God does – can begin to change. This change in thinking then begins to affect our actions. We start to act not as Christians who strive to live as Jesus did, but as people who act according to the wrong thinking that Satan sows in our world.

Wrong thinking led Peter to try and dissuade Jesus from his mission. Wrong thinking led men to carry out murderous acts on September 11. If we are not careful, wrong thinking can lead us into evil, it can lead us into sinful behavior.

© 2021 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski