Homily for the twenty-first Sunday in the year

Year A  -  Mt. 16:13-20


by

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, «Blessed 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.»  Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ."



Homily:


"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.»"

The gospel that we read today is well-known: it recounts the Apostle Peter's profession of faith.  It is this gospel which is proclaimed each year on the 29th of June, the feast of the two great Apostles of the Church:  Saint Peter and Saint Paul.  But today, what does the Holy Spirit wish to convey to us through this sacred text?

The principal thing to note is that Jesus has the initiative in this dialogue between himself and his disciples.  God, in Jesus, is first in all things:  he always has the initiative in everything that concerns the salvation and eternal happiness of his creatures!  For it is God who is our Creator, and we who are his creatures, dependent on him; and how privileged we are to be watched over by him and under his care, which is full of love and goodness!  Saint Paul tells us this in today's epistle:  "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?  For from him and through him and to him are all things." (Rm. 11:34 and 36)

Thus, those whom Jesus questions are the very same whom the Lord, in his supreme Wisdom, has chosen to be his disciples. The replies of the people to Jesus' question, given by the disciples, do not correspond to the reality of the person of Jesus:  "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."  For these people had not been chosen by the Lord for the purpose of knowing him and revealing him to the world.  Why?  Because knowing the Lord is a grace, a free gift of God, a favor that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father, grants when he wills.  The knowledge of God is in fact the very principle of the life that the Lord invites us to share in the light of his eternal glory, as Jesus himself taught us in his prayer to his Father:  "And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." (Jn. 17:3)

"And Jesus answered him, «Blessed 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.»"

Peter followed what the Spirit of the Father inspired inside him, and he replied to Jesus:  "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!"  Peter did not hesitate:  he proclaimed his faith in the Son of God!  It is this correspondence to the grace of God which makes him worthy to be established for all time in the mission that Christ entrusted to him:  "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church."  Peter, and along with him the Church, will be unshakeable:  "The powers of death shall not prevail against it."  But then how can it be that, during the Lord's Passion, Peter denied his Master?

Let us ask the question in a different way:  Peter and the Church, are they men and women who are incapable of sinning, who have no need for the Redemption of Christ?  Not at all!  If Peter had been established in his mission when Jesus said to him:  "You are Peter . . .", it was still necessary for this same mission to become a participation in the Passion of the Lord, through the fall and rise of the great Apostle:  it was necessary for Peter to resurrect with his Master and that his profession of faith be transformed into a profession of love!  "Jesus said to Simon Peter, «Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?» . . . And he said to him, «Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.»" (Jn. 21:15-17)

"Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ."

The grace that the Lord gives us remains his own:  it is his, for he is its sole author.  It is thus normal that Christ would tell his disciples not to reveal who he was:  he alone could decide what was to be done with this grace at that time.  But today, the Holy Spirit has come; it is he who guides us and leads us to spread the Good News of Salvation:  we must not hesitate to follow his inspirations!  If we must proclaim our faith and our love of God, then we must do so without hesitation, as Peter did at Caesarea Philippi:  "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!"