Homily for the feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul - Mt. 16:13-19
Father Daniel Meynen
" Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, 'Who do men say that the Son of man is?' And they said, 'Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.' He said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Simon Peter replied, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' And Jesus answered him, 'Happy are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.' "
" Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, 'Who do men say that the Son of man is?' "
On this feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the Church proposes to us the gospel of the confession of Saint Peter - that is, the story of that memorable act in which Peter, who was called Simon, confesses his faith in the divinity of Christ. So it is paradoxical that Jesus asks this question: "Who do men say that the Son of man is?" In order that his divinity might be affirmed and proclaimed by his disciples, and first by Peter, Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man. It could not be otherwise, for Christ must appear as he who is the sole mediator between God and men (cf. 1 Tm. 2:5), and thus as he who is both God and Man.
" And they said, 'Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.' "
" Who do men say that the Son of man is?" People think that Jesus might be a prophet, and perhaps even a very great prophet. But they do not go so far as to think that Jesus could be God incarnate: "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." This idea of the Incarnation of the Son of God cannot, in fact, come from the men or women of the earth. It can only come from God himself, it can only be the fruit of a divine inspiration given to the one whom the Lord has chosen for this purpose. This is why Jesus addresses himself to his disciples, to those he had chosen to follow him, everywhere and always, to the point of death; it is indeed to them that Christ then asks this question, which is decisive for us all: "But who do you say that I am?"
" Simon Peter replied, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' "
This is the sublime word that Peter, or rather he who is called Simon first, pronounced under the inspiration of the Spirit of God! Through these simple words, Peter reveals the divinity of Christ, he proclaims his faith in the Incarnation of the Word, he testifies that this Man who is similar to other men is also, and first, God: the Son of the living God! Peter is above all a man of faith, a man who believes what the Lord tells him interiorly, a man who has the boldness of faith, trusting in and abandoning himself to the word of God that he hears in the bottom of his heart! Peter is our model of fidelity to Christ and to his Church: Peter is he who, in the Holy Spirit, is the guarantor of our faith in the reality of the Incarnation!
" And Jesus answered him, 'Happy are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.' "
The Father of Jesus, the first person of the Most Holy Trinity, spoke interiorly to Peter in order to make him understand, in the most elevated part of his soul, in that extremity where the soul touches the divinity in its closest aspect, that this Man he sees before him is not only a man but also, and first, his own Son, his perfect Image whom he eternally begets in the Holy Spirit. And this revelation that Peter receives on this day makes him blessed! "Happy are you, Simon!" This does not refer to an earthly happiness. No. It is the happiness of Heaven that is granted and promised irrevocably to Peter. For, through his faith in the word of the Father, he speaks this word that saves, he speaks in a human word what Jesus is divinely: the Word of God. Under the inspiration of the Father, Peter unites himself to this Word of God that is incarnate in Christ: he is saved through his intimate union with the Savior of the world! Here Peter accomplishes that which Saint Paul would write in his epistle to the Romans: "He confesses with his lips and so is saved." (Rm. 10:10)
" And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church..."
Simon is no longer Simon: he is Peter! Jesus establishes Simon as the foundation stone of his building, the Church. Peter, in his union with Christ the Savior, becomes the foundation of the Church for the salvation of all nations. Simon, who becomes Peter, is like the victor of that great battle of the faith that every Christian must wage until the end, he is like the conqueror of the Apocalypse, of whom it is said: "To him who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone which no one knows except him who receives it." (Rev. 2:17) Let us imitate Peter in his faith in Christ! Let us imitate him along with Saint Paul, let us imitate him along with Mary, the Mother of us all, the believer among believers! Let us receive, with love and trust, this hidden manna given to the conqueror: let us receive with fervor on this day the Body of Christ in the Eucharist!