The Gospel according to Matthew (16:13-19)
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
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 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.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Opening Prayer: Jesus, help me to reflect on the question You posed Your apostles: “But who do you say that I am?” Let me ponder how to live my life better as Your disciple, and bring Your love to the world by my life and example. Amen.
The question that is at the heart of today’s Gospel is truly at the heart of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. He asks, “who do you say that I am?” There have been many great men and women throughout history who were wise, and who enlightened their time. Yet, none of those were even an inkling of the One who posed this question. Those others shared human wisdom, and that isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. Philosophers like Socrates, Plato, or theologians like St Thomas Aquinas or St Jerome shared much and made the world better for the wisdom they had.
But in today’s Gospel, we are called to think of a wisdom that is far above human wisdom. Just as Jesus asked His disciples, He asks of each of us, too, “who do YOU say that I am?” If we think of Jesus as a miracle worker, or a teacher, then we miss the point. Jesus *was* all of those things, but He was so much more. He was the Son of God, and Peter rightly points that out in today’s Gospel. That’s one lesson we can take from this snippet of John’s Gospel – to be a follower of Jesus means recognizing that Jesus is the Son of God, not just a “good man” or a teacher or a healer.
That question is one that we will answer differently today than we did yesterday and we will answer it differently tomorrow than we do today. We are not the same person we were before. Our understanding of Jesus and how His life is intertwined with ours is something that grows and changes. The challenge is to see that, and to continually try to walk closer to Jesus in the small ways of our lives. Jesus does not necessarily call us to be workers of miracles. He definitely *does* call us to love like He did. We won’t necessarily be able to do that perfectly, but we are called to try and to strive to always love better.
Let’s consider Peter as well. Today, we hear his confession of who Jesus was, and, prompted by the Holy Spirit, he recognized Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, the “One who was to come”. Did that mean that he magically lived a perfect life, never departing from the path with Jesus? No. In fact, read the next few verses in John’s Gospel, and we hear Jesus telling Peter to “get behind me, you Satan.”
Quite a startling turnabout for the one that Jesus chose as the rock on which He would build His church! We can take heart, though, in knowing that even one so blessed as Peter could fail so utterly, and yet still be the one Jesus chose as the “Rock”. He chooses us to have a special role and part in His Kingdom. It’s a part that is only for us. Will we be willing to act in that role?
To do it, we have to answer that question today, tomorrow, every day, for the rest of our lives: “who do YOU say that I am?” Let us be willing to give that question the attention it deserves, and then go forth and try our best to love like Jesus loves us. Let us be bearers of light and hope, and let us know that He walks right there with us, every step of the way.
Closing Prayer: Dear Lord, thank You for calling me to be a part of Your Kingdom. Help me to love and forgive and to trust that You will always guide me to Your way. Let me remember that You are with me always. Amen.
Action for the Day: Take a few minutes today in silence to ask Jesus to help you to see how best to bring His love to someone in your life. Then, take action and shine the light!