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Face Your God
Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 16: 13-20
Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and 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.” Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
Opening Prayer: Holy Spirit, descend upon me as I gather myself in order to spend a moment in personal prayer. Fill my heart with your grace so that I can recognize the presence of Jesus Christ in my life, his presence here and now.
- When You Spend Time with Jesus: The disciples had spent months with Jesus by now. Having grown into a group of close friends, they were probably getting used to their new lifestyle as “knights errant,” ever on the road, looking for the next town in which to preach. Sure, Jesus would surprise them every now and then with lofty speeches or mighty deeds, but even that might have been starting to feel quite normal. Then, suddenly, he interrupted their smoothly-running normality and asked, “Who do you say that I am?” For a moment, the world held its breath, as did each one of the disciples. The semblance of normality disappeared into thin air and their commitment to the mission was tested as they prepared to answer: Who is Jesus of Nazareth?
- When Christ Taps on Your Shoulder: Our Lord has made himself human, “normal,” so that we can approach him and walk beside him in our daily life. Like the disciples during their journey through the mountains of Palestine, our Christian life can fall into a certain routine. However, every now and then, Our Lord can make us pause. He puts his hand on our shoulder signaling us to stop, then steps in front of us, faces us, and, while locking eyes, asks us that very question. He, God himself, is interested in hearing our personal answer time and again.
- When You Stand before God: Just like the disciples, who paused in momentary silence, our knees might well get wobbly for a second when we face the Almighty. Peter finally broke the spell when he professed Christ’s divinity, causing everyone who was feeling so comfortable a minute ago to pause and reflect. They were in God’s very presence and probably felt prompted to take off their shoes and kneel, for they stood on holy ground (cf. Exodus 3:5). But, where God’s greatness shines, man is not crushed but elevated; Peter was not ordered to prostrate, but was raised to become Jesus’s prime witness and minister of his mercy.
Conversing with Christ: My Lord, as you stand before me and look at me expectantly, I consider both your greatness and your humble presence in my life. You are the Eternal Son of the Father, true God and King of the Universe. And yet you are interested in me and care for the tiny reality of my life. I renew my faith in you and profess it, knowing that your reign will not crush my development but empower it.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will consciously praise your greatness and power in my life, allowing you to lead me to whatever responsibilities you have in mind for me.
For Further Reflection: Catechism of the Catholic Church, 441-442: In the Old Testament, “son of God” is a title given to the angels, the Chosen People, the children of Israel, and their kings. It signifies an adoptive sonship that establishes a relationship of particular intimacy between God and his creature. When the promised Messiah-King is called “son of God,” it does not necessarily imply that he was more than human, according to the literal meaning of these texts. Those who called Jesus “son of God,” as the Messiah of Israel, perhaps meant nothing more than this. Such is not the case for Simon Peter when he confesses Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” for Jesus responds solemnly: “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” Similarly Paul will write, regarding his conversion on the road to Damascus, “When he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles. . .” (Galatians 1:15-16). “And in the synagogues immediately [Paul] proclaimed Jesus, saying, ‘He is the Son of God'” (Acts 9:20). From the beginning this acknowledgment of Christ’s divine Sonship will be the center of the apostolic faith, first professed by Peter as the Church’s foundation.
Written by Father Gabriel von Wendt, LC.