August 27, 2023
Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Matthew 16:13
Today’s Gospel scene takes place about twenty miles north of the Sea of Galilee outside of Herod’s jurisdiction and away from the Pharisees’ watchful eyes. This is a private conversation between Jesus and His disciples that took place where they could speak freely. For that reason, this conversation is particularly personal in nature in that the disciples felt free to express their personal convictions without fear of retribution.
As the conversation unfolds, Jesus asks two consecutive questions. First, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Second, “But who do you say that I am?” By asking these two questions, Jesus first invites the disciples to identify the different opinions floating around about Him and then gives the disciples an opportunity to speak their own conviction. Peter responds on behalf of them all when he solemnly professes, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
If Jesus were to ask you these two questions, what would you answer? First, what is the general opinion about Jesus that most people have today? When asked, most Christians would give the correct answer. Jesus is God. He is the Savior. He is the Son of the Father. But sometimes those answers are more theoretical than they are personal. Often it is easy to believe things about Jesus rather than believing in Jesus. So if you were to answer the second question, what would you say? Ideally, you would answer that Jesus is your Savior, your God, your Shepherd, your Lord. Faith in Jesus must not only be theoretical, it must be deeply personal, flowing from the depths of your heart.
Deep personal faith in Jesus can only come from one source. It comes from the Father speaking to your heart in a real and personal way. After Peter professed His faith in Jesus, Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” Peter’s personal faith in Jesus was not just something he heard from others, it was not just a popularly accepted opinion, it was something that the Father in Heaven personally revealed to him. This is the gift of faith.
Peter’s personal profession of faith became the rock foundation on which Jesus built His Church. “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.” This reveals Jesus’ plan to establish Peter as the head of the Church and to give to him the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven for the whole Church. Similarly, our personal profession of faith will become the unshakable foundation within our souls upon which God’s Church becomes alive in each one of us. When our faith is based upon a personal revelation from the Father in Heaven, spoken within the secrecy of our souls, then nothing can extinguish this faith. The gates of the netherworld cannot prevail against it.
Reflect, today, upon this holy conversation between Jesus and His disciples. As you do, know that Jesus wants to have the same conversation with you. As Jesus took the disciples away to this quiet and safe place, He wants to take you away through prayer to the privacy of your own soul. There, within you, He seeks to elicit a response of personal faith. He wants you to identify Who He is to you. He wants you to profess your faith to Him. This faith is your personal solid foundation, and upon that foundation our Lord will build up His Church in you and through you.
Glorious Lord, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I believe this with all my heart. Please continue to deepen my faith in You by revealing to me Who You are. As You do, I pray that this gift of faith will become a rock foundation upon which You form me more fully in the life of holy virtue and grace. Jesus, I trust in You.