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Sunday 27th of August 2017

 

Gospel

Matthew 16:13-20

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said, ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’ Then he gave the disciples strict orders not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
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Within each of us is a need to be understood. We need to be recognised for who we really

are and not to be misunderstood. How many conflicts revolve around this issue of

recognition and understanding. It was similarly important to Jesus that people recognise

him. Above all he wanted them to know and realise his divinity.

Jesus sets the scene at a city called after great men and he sounds the disciples out. He asks

for feedback. Who do people say I am? The answers are varied and confused. How different

might contemporary answers be. Some say one thing, others another. He presses them.

Who do you say I am? It is Peter, rash, immediate and impulsive, who, as usual speaks up,

and this time he gets it right. You are the Christ, the son of the living God.

This insight, this gift of faith, Jesus tells him, is the gift of the Father, a gift which makes him

a happy man. He then inducts him as leader of the early church, the rock on which his

church would be built. Jesus plays on words and perhaps makes a joke at Peter’s expense

here. Cephas means rock, yet there seems to be little which is rock-like in Peter at first

sight. This is the one who crumbled at the first pressure and denied any knowledge of

Christ, still less the true nature of his identity.

Christ showed this remarkable ability to change others. Peter who seemed to lack

perseverance and solidity becomes the unshakeable rock on which the church is founded.

Thomas who refused to believe utters the most profound statement of belief, ‘My Lord and

my God’. Magdalene who seemed incapable of true love, becomes released from her past

and capable of tender loving.

The office of pope, or perhaps the unity it signifies which has evolved from here, is

important. It has the potential to keep us together and perhaps also the potential to divide

us. Like Saint Peter himself it can become a sign of contradiction. The power and strength

and the witness value of unity is unmistakeable though.

The central question is; who do we say Christ is? The answer we give to this determines our

response to his gospel and to his example. If God is speaking to us directly through his Son

then we ought to listen very carefully indeed. Christ, if he is not the Son of God seems a

very foolish character indeed. If he is the Son of God, and we believe he is, then we ought

to respond to him by acknowledging his true identity and reacting accordingly.

Like Peter, we are torn between belief and betrayal many times but we can manage to

stammer at least today, ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God’.