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.”
Some years ago, Linda and I went on a pilgrimage to Italy on the centennial of our parish. We were blessed to visit Rome and to see the Pope’s “home parish” (St. John Lateran) as well as the glorious beauty of St. Peter’s Basilica. Our group was further blessed that we celebrated Mass near the burial place of St. Peter. And yet, for all the beauty of those places, today’s Gospel is all about how Jesus promised that His church would be built on the “rock”, and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it.
Peter was certainly not a perfect person. Throughout the Gospels, we read of how he seemingly did not get the point and how he ultimately denied even knowing Jesus. Through it all, though, Jesus did not give up on him. That’s the truest lesson we can learn from Peter – we don’t have to get it right, but we do have to do our best to live out our faith, and be secure in the knowledge that our Lord won’t abandon us, no matter how many times we may stray.
Peter as the first leader of the Church is seen now as a source of unity. God longs for us all to be united in faith, hope and love. We frail human beings won’t often (or maybe ever) touch perfection, but we are called to listen to the whispers of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, like Peter, and do our best to draw closer to the God who calls us. Then, we are called to also emulate that selfless love of Jesus, caring and giving for others, especially those most in need. If we do that, we can come closer to God, and bring His kingdom closer, even in our world that has so much division.
Action for the Day: Say a prayer for our Holy Father, Pope Francis, successor to St. Peter, that he be given the grace to promote unity and love among all of God’s family here on earth.
If you would like to hear this reflection, click the link below!