The Gospel according to Matthew (16:13-23)
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 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. 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.” Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah. From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
Opening Prayer: Oh, Holy Spirit I open my heart and mind. Please come to me. Guide this prayer so that I may worship you with all my heart.
Encountering Christ: Good ol’ Simon Peter, now he’s got it, now he doesn’t. At one point in today’s Gospel, he proclaims what only God could reveal, that Jesus IS the Messiah. And after this incredible revelation Jesus entrusts His church to this enlightened man full of grace. Peter is on fire! Then in the next moment, as Jesus explains how his path toward the salvation of man and the culmination of his mission requires him to suffer and die, a perplexed Simon Peter is admonished for becoming an obstacle. Talk about highs and lows!
Looking back on my life I can absolutely identify with our beloved Saint Peter. For the sake of this reflection let’s call this the Yo-Yo effect. One moment we are flying high in the clouds having a sublime experience in prayer, worship, relationship, or some other avenue that takes us into the heart of Jesus. There, we come as close to heaven as we can in our mortal bodies. Then in an instant we begin to feel the weight, the pull back to our sinful tendencies and tumble so far that we fall into despair and feel the absence of any connection with our creator.
There is a saying that goes, “Never let your highs get too high or your lows too low.” Maybe this is something we can attempt to apply to our faith life. Not that we can’t or shouldn’t experience great highs or lows but maybe if we had a more consistent connection to God and his grace, we would be better able to avoid those extremes.
In our church today there are those who claim that we are in trouble; that our church is crumbling and we are in the midst of the beginning of the end. Some say that we are slipping so far away from God and the teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that we will not survive. When I start paying too much attention to the negative talk about Mother Church I turn to the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”
Yes, times are tough, but there has always been strife, suffering, and struggle. We are often short-sighted and think that the times we live in are the worst. Look back at our human history, pick a century or decade and you will find plenty of grief. However, Jesus came to save us! Not from this world and its problems, but from ourselves. He came to save us from sin which is worse than any catastrophe because it can separate from the love of God. The gates of heaven were opened wide and eternal death was eliminated when Jesus died and rose again for those who repent and seek the love of God.
May our highs not be too high and our lows not too low as we navigate our way through this life and avoid the Yo-yo effect as much as we can. With the infinite grace of God and a great effort to bring others with us let us make our way into the loving arms of our merciful Father through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Closing Prayer: Lord, you are the Messiah, the one who was to come into the world. Helps us to see you in others and in all your creation. May we accept the gifts you give us every day, especially the gift of our lives and share the grace we receive.
Action for the Day: Let’s make a commitment to strive for a consistent prayer life so that our time with Jesus in prayer, worship, and thanksgiving may help us maintain a steady course in our faith life. And, as a result, make His presence known everywhere we go and with everyone we meet.