21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
23rd August 2020
Year A – Psalter week 1
Simon Peter acknowledges Jesus as the Christ and is given the key to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Caesarea Philippi was an unusual place for Jesus to be with his disciples, let alone the place he chose to appoint the first leader of his church on earth. It was a non-Jewish town, and at that time it was a place of many temples renamed by Herod’s son Philip in honour of Caesar. Hence the name Caesarea Philippi. Perhaps, Jesus wanted his disciples to be away from the hustle and bustle of the crowds, who were following him clamouring for a miracle or cure, so that they could stop and think about what was happening and who Jesus truly was.
So, Jesus started by asking who others thought he was, before getting the disciples to speak for themselves. Of course, no one likes to give a wrong answer in front of a group but Peter, inspired by God the Father spoke up. ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ This would not have been a light-bulb moment flash of inspiration for Peter, because Jesus’ message, and purpose was being gradually revealed to the disciples. In truth, they did not understand the fullness of his ministry until after the resurrection. But they knew who he was.
Jesus commends Simon Peter for this profession of faith, acknowledging that this insight has come from God the Father. Because of Simon Peter’s response, Jesus calls him the ‘rock’ upon which Jesus would build his Church.
This makes sense as Peter was obviously a leader, and he is the disciple mentioned most frequently and who speaks most frequently throughout the gospels. But it is good to remember that Peter was not chosen by Jesus as the first Pope and chief shepherd of his flock because he was so much better than anyone else. Peter, we know denied Jesus three times during his passion saying, ‘I do not know this man,’ and in next weeks Gospel we hear Jesus say to him ‘Get behind me, Satan’. But Jesus could also see exactly what Peter was able to achieve, and what he could become by accepting Jesus’ love and faithfulness – in just the same way as he also sees what we ourselves can become and achieve, when we place our trust in him.
In the same way that Jesus questioned the disciples, he also asks all of us – to you and me today, ‘Who do you say I am?’ What truly does the love, death and resurrection of Jesus really mean to us?
We are called to recognise God in our lives. He eagerly calls us to think about who he is, and then what difference does knowledge of him make in our lives. We are called to think, and perhaps to change.
He is our saviour, the answer to the deepest questions and longings of the human heart and he can bring us peace, strength, and comfort – in good times and bad.
Today’s Gospel reminds us that our Church is built on the foundation of faith in Jesus Christ and his resurrection. Peter proclaims two certain truths at the very core of our faith about the person of Christ, firstly that Jesus is the Christ, and secondly that he is the Son of the Living God.
This truth of our faith and who Jesus is, needs to become our own personal daily conviction and belief. Unlike Peter and the apostles, we have 2000 years of apostolic tradition and the teachings of the church, and various church councils to help us. What we all need to be able to do, and what will help us in good times and hard times, is to be able to answer with the same belief and conviction as Peter did, because God the Father also wants us to know and believe in his Son, just as much as he did Peter and the disciples.
We stand on the bedrock of that which was revealed to Peter and then vindicated by the resurrection – Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, who died and rose again so that we can share eternal life and happiness with him.
When asked by anyone ‘What do you believe?’, this should be our answer both in word and in action. We should try to live what we profess and shape our lives and actions by our faith.
Let us pray this week that the faith we profess in the creed, we may also believe with our hearts, and practice with our lives.
Sunday Message and Look
Download this weeks Sunday Message and Look (for our younger parishioners) by clicking on the images, for all the readings for this week, as well as the prayers during mass and the usual weekly thoughts and reflections.
You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. Alleluia!