19 August 2011

'Who do you say I am?' Sunday Reflections, 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A, 21 August 2011

Baldacchino, St Peter’s Basilica, Rome, Gian Lorezo Bernini, 1624
Readings (New American Bible, used in the Philippines and the USA). 

Gospel Matthew 16:13-20 (Jerusalem Bible, used in Australia, England & Wales, Ireland, Scotland).

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.

An Soiscéal Matha 16:13-20 (Irish Gaelic)

San am sin ar theacht isteach i gceantar Chéasaráia Philib dó, d’fhiafraigh Íosa dá chuid deisceabal: “Cé hé a deir na daoine Mac an Duine?” Dúirt siad: “Deir cuid acu Eoin Baiste; cuid eile acu Éilias; tuilleadh acu Irimia nó duine de na fáithe.” Dúirt sé leo: “Ach cé a deir sibhse mé?” Dúirt Síomón Peadar á fhreagairt: “Is tú an Críost, Mac Dé bheo.” D’fhreagair Íosa agus dúirt sé leis: “Is méanar duit, a Shíomóin Bar Ióna, óir ní fuil agus feoil a d’fhoilsigh duit é ach m’Athair atá ar neamh. Agus deirimse leatsa gur tú Peadar agus is ar an gcarraig seo a thógfaidh mé m’eaglais, agus ní bhuafaidh geataí ifrinn uirthi. Agus tabharfaidh mé duit eochracha ríocht na bhflaitheas; rud ar bith a cheanglaíonn tú ar talamh beidh sé ceangailte ar neamh, agus rud ar bith a scaoileann tú ar talamh beidh sé scaoilte ar neamh.” Chuir sé mar acht ar na deisceabail ansin gan a rá le duine ar bith gurbh é féin an Críost.

Entrance Antiphon (Latin)

Inclina Domine aurem tuam et exaudi me.
Salvum fac servum tuum, Deus meus, sperantem in te.
Miserere mei, Domine, quoniam ad te clamabo tota die. (Ps 85 [86]:1-3).

Entrance Antiphon (English)

Listen, Lord, and answer me.
Save your servant who trusts in you. .
I call to you all day long; have mercy on me, O Lord. (Ps 85 [86]:1-2)/

It is fitting that this is the gospel on the Sunday on which World Youth Day ends in Madrid, with Pope Benedict the main celebrant and the homilist at the closing Mass. In the gospel Jesus asks Peter directly, 'Who do you say I am?' Jesus is putting the same question to each of the young pilgrims from all over the world, estimated to number between 500,000 and 1,000,000.
In his message for WYD 2011 Pope Benedict reflects on the theme for Madrid, Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith (cf. Col 2:7). He invites not only those who are strong in the faith to take part: I would like all young people – those who share our faith in Jesus Christ, but also those who are wavering or uncertain, or who do not believe in him – to share this experience, which can prove decisive for their lives. It is an experience of the Lord Jesus, risen and alive, and of his love for each of us.

In today's gospel St Peter had not yet met the Risen Lord but he already believed in Jesus. His response to the question or Jesus, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God, led directly to Pope Benedict being in Spain this weekend, because he received through Peter the commission Jesus gave, You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church . . .

Pope Benedict, who refers in his message to his own experience as a young person under the Nazis, doesn't underestimate the youngL Part of being young is desiring something beyond everyday life and a secure job, a yearning for something really truly greater. Is this simply an empty dream that fades away as we become older? No! Men and women were created for something great, for infinity. Nothing else will ever be enough. Saint Augustine was right when he said 'our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you'.

My paternal grandfather, who spent his working life as a labouring man in Guinness's brewery in Dublin, used to say to me When you leave school get a nice, cushy job. I guess he didn't want me to have to do any backbreaking work. I was never inspired by his words, though I still remember them. Rather, I was inspired by stories of Columban priests in prison after the Communist takeover in China in 1949 and accounts of the lives and deaths of other Columbans who died in the Korean War.

Pope Benedict explicitly assumes the task given him by Jesus through Peter in today's gospel: As the Successor of the Apostle Peter, I too want to confirm you in the faith (cf. Lk 22:32). We firmly believe that Jesus Christ offered himself on the Cross in order to give us his love. In his passion, he bore our sufferings, took upon himself our sins, obtained forgiveness for us and reconciled us with God the Father, opening for us the way to eternal life. Thus we were freed from the thing that most encumbers our lives: the slavery of sin. We can love everyone, even our enemies, and we can share this love with the poorest of our brothers and sisters and all those in difficulty.

These are the central truths that the Church must constatnly proclaim and, with God's grace, try to live each day. Benedict doesn't offer the young, or any of us, a 'faith diet' suitable only for an unweaned child: Recognize and serve Jesus in the poor, the sick, and in our brothers and sisters who are in difficulty and in need of help.

Enter into a personal dialogue with Jesus Christ and cultivate it in faith. Get to know him better by reading the Gospels and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Converse with him in prayer, and place your trust in him. He will never betray that trust! 'Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed' (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 150). Thus you will acquire a mature and solid faith, one which will not be based simply on religious sentiment or on a vague memory of the catechism you studied as a child. You will come to know God and to live authentically in union with him, like the Apostle Thomas who showed his firm faith in Jesus in the words: 'My Lord and my God!'

The Pope reiterates his commission from Jesus in the service of the Church in his address at the welcome ceremony on 18 August at Madrid-Barajas International Airport: I have come here to meet thousands of young people from all over the world, Catholics committed to Christ searching for the truth that will give real meaning to their existence. I come as the Successor of Peter, to confirm them all in the faith, with days of intense pastoral activity, proclaiming that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life; to motivate the commitment to build up the Kingdom of God in the world among us; to exhort young people to know Christ personally as a friend and so, rooted in his person, to become faithful followers and valiant witnesses.

May each of us, like St Peter, desire to know Christ personally as a friend and so, rooted in his person, to become faithful followers and valiant witnesses.

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