Friday, 21 August 2020 15:19

Who do you say I am?

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21OTSWeb374When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to the disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets’. ‘But you’, he said, ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said, ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, Simon, son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’ Then he gave the disciples strict orders not to tell anyone that he was the Christ. (Matthew 16:13-20)

At this point in St Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus and his chosen ones have travelled and lived together for some time. He now invites them to explore what they understand about his identity. Even in his question there is explicit hint: Who do people say the Son of Man is?

The disciples tell Jesus what they have heard from others: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Jesus then asks the disciples, “But, who do you say I am?” It is Peter who adds to the title ‘Son of Man’ by recognising Jesus as ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God’.

Jesus names Peter as a happy man. This same Peter whose faith faltered when he was buffeted by the wind and waves in last Sunday’s Gospel has now shown his openness to God and recognises Jesus for who he is. But this is not the end of Peter’s story. There are ups and downs in his response, as we will see next Sunday when this ‘rock’ of faith becomes a ‘stumbling block’ to God’s purpose.

In spite of that, Jesus names Peter as the ‘rock’ on which he will build the church. Peter has a new name and a new vocation. This church will have to battle hostile forces which seek to enslave people in sin. It will be a safe haven of freedom by being the living presence of God.

Peter’s job is to use the ‘keys of the kingdom’ to unlock and release the reign of God’s grace into the world. In this work, decisions have to be made for the whole community of the church. Here, Matthew’s words about ‘binding’ and ‘loosening’ have nothing to do with the forgiveness of sins. They are a kind of pledge that the sincere and honest decisions of faithful people have divine backing. It does not mean that these decisions are the best or most perfect ones. Discernment and decision-making are part of the job of being disciples finding together the way of the Lord; of being the living presence of God in the world.

Finally, Jesus binds the disciples to silence about his true identity lest his Messiahship get confused with the people’s expectation of a messiah who will free them from Roman occupation.

Like last Sunday, Peter is a lot like us. We really want to believe, to become the presence of God, but we don’t always seem to be able to do it. We have great moments of faith and moments in which we are deeply in tune with the heart of God. Most of us also have moments when we fall back into narrow and harsh ways that cannot hold the power of God’s love. But the Gospel reassures us that, in spite of our weakness and the many ways in which we may be found wanting, God is still close to us and faith is a journey, not a destination.

Join us in celebrating at home this Sunday using the links below.

Celebrating At Home for 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time PDF   
Celebrating At Home for 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time iPhone & iPad

pdf Lectio Divina for 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time PDF (249 KB)    
default Lectio Divina for 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time iPhone & iPad (835 KB)

 

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