In today's Gospel, Jesus says to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan. You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do" (Matthew 16:23).
These are difficult words, to be sure. The Lord spoke to Peter with such force because the Prince of the Apostles was trying - perhaps unknowingly - to turn Jesus away from his Father's will by telling him not to go to Jerusalem where the Lord foretold he must go "and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raise" (Matthew 16:21).
It might be said that Peter had stepped in front of Jesus and was no longer following. For this reason, Jesus said to him, "Get behind me." How often must the Lord say the same to each of us?
In today's feast of Saint John Vianney we find a priest who stayed behind Jesus, who daily followed him and in whom the Lord sustained a willing spirit (see Psalm 51:14).
Among the many sayings that come down to us from Father Vianney is this prayer: "Grant me the conversion of my parish, and I am ready to suffer whatever you wish for the rest of my life." Whereas Peter wanted to flee the Cross, Vianny ran toward it.
This is the constant temptation for every priest, to seek the easy way out, to remain silent when the truth must be spoken. Vianny did not want the easy way out, he wanted the way of authentic love that gives of itself so that others might live.
Let every priest look to Saint John Vianney to learn how to stay always being Christ so as to follow him always. Let every priest learn from him to beg the Lord for the conversion of their people, willing accept whatever sufferings will help them grow in faith, in hope and in love. By doing so, every priest will be able to echo Vianney's famed words: "You have shown me the way to Ars. I will show you the way to heaven."