Is 22:15, 19-23; Rom 11:33-36; Mt 16:13-20
On Sunday morning a man showed up at church with both his ears terribly blistered, so his pastor asked, “WHAT happened to YOU?””I was lying on the couch watching a ball game on TV while my wife was ironing nearby. I was totally engrossed in the game when she went out, leaving the iron ear the phone. The phone rang, and keeping my eyes on the TV, I grabbed the hot iron and put it to my ear.” “How dreadful,” gasped the pastor. “But how did the other ear get burned?” “Well, you see, I’d no sooner hung up and the guy called back!” He just didn’t get it. Lots of folks never get it, never understand how life really works, even at the simplest levels. That’s why Jesus is pressing his followers — and us — so insistently in today’s Gospel: “Do you understand who I am,” he asks, “and what my being here means for you?”
When Jesus asked his disciples who do men said he was, the disciples mistakenly thought that he wanted to know his popularity rating. But Jesus was not interested in knowing how popular or famous he was: what he really wanted to know was whether each of his disciples fully understood who he was. Fortunately, St Peter on behalf of the rest gave him a very convincing and courageous answer (Mt 16:16): “You are the Son of the living God.”
Today Christ is asking us: ‘Who do you think I am?’ What is our answer to Him? Most of us give a second-hand answer which we have received from our parents, teachers and others. Most of us look on Christ as did the Jews in His days – a great wonder- worker. Christ’s miracles tell us about Him. Christianity is not knowing about Jesus. Christianity is knowing Christ on a person to person basis. Jesus demands personal encounter with commitment to Him.
When Peter enlightened by God said Jesus was the Son of the living God, he still did not know Christ. He knew about Christ, and that explains his denying Christ three times. Peter said: “I know not THE MAN. He was still looking at Christ as a man and not God. After the Resurrection, Peter knew Christ as God. When Christ asked him three times, Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” His third reply was, “Lord; you know everything you know that I love you.” His words: “Lord you know everything…” shows that he knew Christ was Lord, Christ was God. He had learnt the truth that God loves us in spite of our faults. Peter, therefore, geared himself to loving Christ. He grew in the love of Christ. God was personal to him. It involved a personal commitment to Christ. He gave his life to Christ and gave up his life for Christ by being crucified.
Peter, the unreliable and cowardly, became reliable and courageous. A real Rock, the foundation on which Christ built His Church. The gates of the underworld can never hold against it. To Peter was given the keys of the kingdom, to signify doctrinal and disciplinary authority in the Church.
Today we find Christians spurning the doctrinal and disciplinary authority of the Church. They even make bold to say that the Church is out of tune with reality; that Her teaching regarding abortion is wrong, They argue, how can birth control be wrong when everybody is doing them? Such arguments: “Like everybody is doing it” does not mean that those actions are right and that Catholics can do them. Catholics, who do as everybody does, are not following Catholicism but a new religion “Everybodism.”
Christ in today’s Gospel was not satisfied with what everybody thought of Him. We know the answer everybody gave was wrong. Christ, therefore, puts to us the question He put to Peter, “Who do you say I am?” Peter, we know, gave the correct answer. God spoke through Peter. God still speaks through the living Peter, the Holy Father. Christianity is a personal commitment to Christ and His Bride, the Church. It requires of a Christian to live by Christ’s teaching and die if need be for Christ and His bride. Dying for Christ will merit us a living with Christ forever.
“Who do you say that I am?” This is a personal question that demands a personal response. It is a critical question that calls us to commit ourselves one way or other. It is a decisive question whose answer will determine our entire destiny. Whether we are in New York or in New Delhi, we can’t dodge the issue or avoid this question. If Jesus is truly God’s son, then either we confess that and act accordingly or else we deny it and do our own thing.