“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asked... What is our answer?
Reflections on the readings for the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time (August 23, 2020): IS 22:19-23; PS 138:1-2,2-3,6,8; ROM 11:33-36; MT 16:13-20
MISSIO offers “Preaching Mission,” as a homily help, providing connections to mission from the readings of Sundays, Feast Days and Holy Days.
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it."
Jesus’ conversation with His disciples in today’s Gospel starts out with a question about who other people think He is. The Apostles let Him know that some think He is John the Baptist or one of the prophets. Then our Lord gets to the main point of His questioning. “He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter said in reply, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus said to him in reply, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood had not revealed this to you, but My heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it’” (Matthew 16:15-18). Peter answers Jesus with the exact truth, something that would have been impossible if he were only thinking for himself. So Jesus lets Peter know that he has received a divine revelation and that this is a precursor to a very particular role that he has been chosen to fulfill. Jesus then goes on to announce the primacy of Peter in His Church.
We do not know what Peter, or the rest of the Apostles for that matter, thought about Jesus’ words. Certainly, they must have wondered what He meant by binding and loosing, and even the meaning of His Church. But it is clear that Peter has been singled out as the foundation of a community of those who also follow Jesus and that he has received special authority. Only after our Lord is crucified and rises from the dead can Peter and the others really understand that Jesus is the Son of the Living God. And only after the coming of the Holy Spirit can they finally start to grasp all that is required of them in building up the Church of Jesus Christ – with Peter as its rock according to God’s will. The Church belongs to Christ and it is Divine power and never human strength that transforms it so uniquely. Everyone who believes in Christ has a vital part to play in sharing our faith for the spiritual welfare of others and the good of our own souls, today and tomorrow.