Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Dear Sisters and brothers in Jesus Christ,
Certain moments or experiences in our life affect profoundly the rest of our life. These are called peak moments or peak experiences. The Gospel reading of today presents a peak experience in the life of St Peter – his declaration of the identity of Jesus.
I would like to highlight five things that we can learn from this peak experience:
- (First) Peter’s Experience is Significant or Important for all human beings. Matthew tells us that Peter made his profession of faith in the region of Caesarea Philipii. This was not a typically Jewish town. It was a town with a lot of non-Jewish, foreign or pagan influence. Situating Peter’s profession in the region of Caesarea Philippi seems to be Matthew’s way of telling us that Peter’s confession has significance beyond the Jewish boundaries, that it has universal significance.
2. Jesus wants your personal response
Jesus first asked the disciples what other people thought about him. They said, John the Baptist, Elijah, (Jeremiah) etc. Then he asked them: “Who do you say that I am?” In other words, “Who am I for you?”
We may know many things about Jesus which we have heard from others – our catechism teachers, the retreat preachers, the books we have read, etc. However, that is not sufficient. He wants to know, “Who do you say that I am? Who am I for you?”
3. We need God’s Help to Know Who Jesus is
When Peter declared that “Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God,” Jesus praised Peter. But then he said that Peter did not come to this awareness through human means. This was revealed to Peter by God. Peter is a beneficiary of God’s revelation.
If we approach Jesus with our human resources alone, we will only arrive at conclusions arrived at by the Jews – that he is a prophet, a teacher, a healer. The real identity of Jesus has to be made known to us by God. For this, we have to remain open to be surprised by God. That is why St Paul tells us in 1 Cor 12:3 “No one can say, Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.”
4. We grow in our life of faith gradually
Peter made a very solemn profession of faith. But he did not understand fully what he said. In fact, his very next words show that he expected a triumphant Messiah. But Jesus would be a suffering messiah. When during the night of the last supper he said, “I do not know him,” he was paradoxically saying the truth – he did not know the true Messiah, he only knew a Messiah, a son of God of his own creation. But the resurrection experience would change all that. Peter grew in his faith gradually, with many ups and downs, until he became mature enough to lay down his life for Jesus. Our journey of faith may not be much different.
5. Faith bestows on you the privilege to serve
When Peter made the profession of faith Jesus entrusted him with the privilege or duty of leading the Church. A faith that does not express itself in service, a faith that does not do justice is a very weak faith, shallow faith. The Letter of James 2:17 says “Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”
“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus is asking that question to each one of us today. And he is waiting for our personal answer.
May God bless you.