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Matthew 16:13-19

The Word of God

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

Matthew 16:13-19
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    • Did Jesus choose Peter for his strengths or for his weaknesses? Can I apply this question to myself?
    • The Church is the assembly of the people of God. Talk to God about your relationship with the Church.
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    • A name is not an optional extra in life. Naming people has been a feature of the Scriptures from the Garden of Eden to the last book of the Bible. Mary was told to call her Son, Jesus, a name meaning “God saves”. Simon was re-named Peter, meaning Rock because he was called to be the earthly foundation stone of the Church.
    • Each of us is called to be a foundation stone for the up building of the lives of those around us. St John tells us in the Apocalypse that each of us will receive a new name when we reach heaven. Let us do all we can to prepare ourselves, here on earth, to receive joyfully that mysterious new name.
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    • Suppose that Jesus suddenly put his question to me in my prayer today, what would I answer?
    • Let me be honest with him, no matter if I feel ashamed of what I come up with. Jesus reads my heart long before I speak. Perhaps he then invites me to chat with Peter, who got the formula right in this scene, but in yesterday’s gospel tries to argue Jesus out of his passion, making Jesus so angry as to call him ‘Satan’. Peter also in a little while will deny that he even knows Jesus!
    • But, Lord, let me see that Peter’s weakness is the making of him: he finally learns not to trust in himself but in you alone. After the resurrection when you question him again, he is honest in saying, ‘You know I love you’. And that is enough. Let him teach me to learn your forgiving love through my weaknesses, and let me love you ever more deeply.
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    • A rock mid-stream is something you put your foot on: a sure footing, something you can depend on, that will ensure a safe crossing, no injury and your ultimately your life.
    • What a shaky rock Peter turned out to be: three denials; dispute with Saint Paul over admitting gentiles to the community leading to the Council of Jerusalem. Yet Jesus gives him everything.
    • As Pope Francis points out in his Exhortation “Rejoice and be Glad”: Everything can be accepted and integrated into our life in this world, and become a part of our path to holiness. We are called to be contemplatives even in the midst of action, and to grow in holiness by responsibly and generously carrying out our proper mission.” (#26)
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    • Jesus ‘had his work cut out for him’, as we might say, in weaning his followers off the notion that he was going to use whatever popularity he had gained, for political purposes. By their answers, the disciples now seem to have begun to purify their expectations – and the talk here focuses on famous figures from the past whose return was thought to signify God’s imminent intervention inaugurating the End Times (particularly so in the case of Elijah).
    • When Peter is moved to identify Jesus with the Messiah – Jesus congratulates him, so to speak, on having allowed himself to be inspired in his answer by the heavenly Father: at last his thinking has been raised onto the properly spiritual plane.
    • Jesus reveals that he is founding a church – a community of faith and worship – which the powers of hell will not be able to overcome. But community always needs leadership; and to Peter (whose name resembles the word for ‘rock’ – depending on the language being spoken) is entrusted the authority of binding and loosing – always associated with a people with whom the Lord has entered into a covenant bond.
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    • Peter does well here: he has caught on to who Jesus was, and Jesus blesses him. But this is not the end of the journey, because when under pressure in the Passion he denies that he even knows Jesus. Peter however enters into a new depth of relationship with Jesus when he admits his weakness: he knows he can no longer trust himself but must depend totally on Jesus. And this is enough for him to be told, ‘Feed my lambs and sheep’ (John 21:15-17).
    • At an ordination ceremony the bishop asked: ‘Is this man weak enough to be a priest?’ He meant that only if he was aware of his frailty would he become a man of prayer and live out his ministry in trust and dependence on God.
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    • Today’s celebration of the Chair or primacy of Saint Peter, the original ancestor of our Christian family, marks the establishment of an organised Christian community under the leadership of Simon (now uniquely renamed ‘Rock’) and his successors.
    • Do I believe and affirm with love Peter’s declaration of faith in Jesus, not just as Messiah, but as the Son of God?
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    • St Peter and St Paul are often described as the 'columns of the faith': Peter was the rock upon which the Church was built, and Paul was the apostles of the Gentiles, especially chosen by Christ to carry the Good News to those who were not Jews. Today, as we celebrate their feast, I reflect on my faith, especially that it is a great gift from God, which I received when I was baptised, and in which I grew through the ministry of so many others: starting from the apostles, down to my parents, teachers, catechists, parish community, friends, and so many other witnesses. I thank God for this great gift, and ask for the ability to know how to transmit it to others, not as a museum piece but as a living reality.
    • I also reflect in gratitude that I am not called to live this alone, but with others, in the community we call the Church. I talk with Jesus on my membership in the Church, and ask him to help me be a living stone in this his house. May this house be open to all men and women of all time.
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    • No Gospel text has been scrutinised more carefully than this, because it describes Jesus founding a church, and giving primacy to Peter. Let me imagine myself in that setting, under the cliff-face in Caesarea Philippi, as Jesus asks his momentous question: ‘Who do you say that I am?’ Suddenly the dimensions of his mission expand. He is handing over to us (the ecclesia, or people of God) the task of continuing his mission. We are not, as is sometimes phrased, ‘followers of the church’. We are the church, served by bishops and others, but with our own wisdom.
    • Lord, you did not leave us orphans. We are the people of God, with a leader, and the support of the Holy Spirit. I am not alone.
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    • Our faith requires that we give a personal answer to the question as to who Jesus (the Son of Man) is. It is not enough to quote the Catechism of the Catholic Church or the views of one or other theologian. "But who do you say that I am?" Try to answer not only from the head but from the heart. You might helpfully rephrase the question as: "Who is Jesus for me?" An answer can only be given in prayer.
    • Notice how Jesus stresses that Peter's (and my) faith is a gift from the Father. What is the rock on which Jesus will build his church: the person of Peter or his faith?
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    • Jesus’ personal question brought the discussion about him to a new level, like the movement from ‘what do you want?’ (John 1:38) to ‘whom do you want?’ (John 18:4). Peter responded in a personal way, seeing Jesus as Messiah and the Son of the living God. Time spent with Jesus had formed an impression which led him to see Jesus as the promised one.
    • Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter giving him a new assignment, as was true of the change of Saul to Paul in his mission to the Gentiles. Jesus saw the potential in Peter to become the rock, the solid foundation of the building for the fragile faith community. He was given the keys of the household with the authority and responsibility of making decisions. God can work through frail people to bring his Kingdom about.
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    • The disciples were familiar with the rumours about Jesus, able to recite the hearsay and gossip. Jesus leads them to put aside external voices. The only question for me is, ‘Who do I say Jesus is?’ as I put aside gossip and other opinions.
    • I proclaim Jesus by the way I live as my words and actions, my attitudes and choices demonstrate who influences me.
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    • You put the same question to me, Lord: /Who do you say that I am?/ As I pray about your question, your own words echo in me: /I am the Way, the Truth and the Life./
    • I take care to let nothing come between me and my conversation with God. No spiritual reading, no inspiration point will answer the question that God asked of me, ‘Who do you say that I am?’
    • I express who God is to me by the way I live; it becomes evident to others by of what I say and by what I do. I pray my faith in the living God may be seen in my words and actions.
    • The disciples were familiar with the rumours about Jesus, able to recite the hearsay and gossip. Jesus leads them to put aside external voices. The only question for me is, 'Who do I say Jesus is?' as I put aside gossip and other opinions.
    • I proclaim Jesus by the way I live as my words and actions, my attitudes and choices demonstrate who influences me.