22 August 2014

'Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.' Sunday Reflections, 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Saint Peter, El Greco, 1610-13
Monasterio de San Lorenzo, El Escorial, Spain [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa) 

Gospel Matthew 16:13-20 (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada) 

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.  And I tell you, you are Peter,  and on this rock  I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”  Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Pope Francis in Korea, 13-18 August 2014 [Wikipedia]

In his homily on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, 29 June 2013, Pope Francis said: I would like to offer three thoughts on the Petrine ministry, guided by the word 'confirm'.  What has the Bishop of Rome been called to confirm? By 'Petrine ministry' the pope was speaking of the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, of the Pope, the successor of St Peter. He said that the Pope is called to confirm in faith, to confirm in love and to confirm in unity. Here is what he said about confirming in faith.

The Gospel speaks of the confession of Peter: 'You are Christ, the Son of the living God' (Mt16:16), a confession which does not come from him but from our Father in heaven.  Because of this confession, Jesus replies: 'You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church' (v. 18).  The role, the ecclesial service of Peter, is founded upon his confession of faith in Jesus, the Son of the living God, made possible by a grace granted from on high.  In the second part of today’s Gospel we see the peril of thinking in worldly terms.  When Jesus speaks of his death and resurrection, of the path of God which does not correspond to the human path of power, flesh and blood re-emerge in Peter: 'He took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him . . . This must never happen to you' (16:22).  Jesus’ response is harsh: 'Get behind me, Satan!  You are a hindrance to me' (v. 23).  Whenever we let our thoughts, our feelings or the logic of human power prevail, and we do not let ourselves be taught and guided by faith, by God, we become stumbling blocks.  Faith in Christ is the light of our life as Christians and as ministers in the Church!

Apostolic Journey on the Occasion of 6th Asian Youth Day (AYD2014)
13-18 August 2014, Republic of Korea

On his recent Apostolic Journey to the Republic of Korea Pope Francis through his words and actions carried out his ministry of confirming in faith, as well as in love and in unity, not only the people of Korea, not only the delegates to the 6th Asian Youth Day, but all of us.

At the Mass in the World Cup Stadium in Daejeon - the Diocese of Daejeon hosted AYD2014 -  on the Solemnity of the Assumption the Bishop of Rome said [emphasis added]: 

Today, in venerating Mary, Queen of Heaven, we also turn to her as Mother of the Church in Korea. We ask her to help us to be faithful to the royal freedom we received on the day of our Baptism, to guide our efforts to transform the world in accordance with God’s plan, and to enable the Church in this country to be ever more fully a leaven of his Kingdom in the midst of Korean society. May the Christians of this nation be a generous force for spiritual renewal at every level of society. May they combat the allure of a materialism that stifles authentic spiritual and cultural values and the spirit of unbridled competition which generates selfishness and strife. May they also reject inhumane economic models which create new forms of poverty and marginalize workers, and the culture of death which devalues the image of God, the God of life, and violates the dignity of every man, woman and child.

As Korean Catholics, heirs to a noble tradition, you are called to cherish this legacy and transmit it to future generations. This will demand of everyone a renewed conversion to the word of God and a passionate concern for the poor, the needy and the vulnerable in our midst.

The same day at the Shrine of Solmoe, known as 'The Birthplace of Catholicism in Korea', Pope Francis met with the delegates to AYD2014 and once again spoke of the importance of baptism along with the two other sacraments of initiation into the faith, Confirmation and the Eucharist:

Dear young friends, in this generation the Lord is counting on you! He is counting on you! He entered your hearts on the day of your Baptism; he gave you his Spirit on the day of your Confirmation; and he strengthens you constantly by his presence in the Eucharist, so that you can be his witnesses before the world. Are you ready to say 'yes'? [Yes!] Are you ready? [Yes!] Thank you! Are you tired? [No!] Really? [Yes!]

Beatification Mass

On Saturday 18 August Pope Francis beatified Paul Yun Ji-chung and 135 martyr companions at the Gwanghwamun Gate, Seoul. In his homily he emphasised the gift of faith that we are called to pass on, no matter what the cost:

The victory of the martyrs, their witness to the power of God’s love, continues to bear fruit today in Korea, in the Church which received growth from their sacrifice. Our celebration of Blessed Paul and Companions provides us with the opportunity to return to the first moments, the infancy as it were, of the Church in Korea. It invites you, the Catholics of Korea, to remember the great things which God has wrought in this land and to treasure the legacy of faith and charity entrusted to you by your forebears.

The Holy Father linked the sacrifice of these martyrs of Korea with the situation in today's world and what our Christian faith demands of us:

The example of the martyrs also teaches us the importance of charity in the life of faith. It was the purity of their witness to Christ, expressed in an acceptance of the equal dignity of all the baptized, which led them to a form of fraternal life that challenged the rigid social structures of their day. It was their refusal to separate the twin commandment of love of God and love of neighbor which impelled them to such great solicitude for the needs of the brethren. Their example has much to say to us who live in societies where, alongside immense wealth, dire poverty is silently growing; where the cry of the poor is seldom heeded; and where Christ continues to call out to us, asking us to love and serve him by tending to our brothers and sisters in need.

Pope Francis spoke of the joy of being a Christian, one of his basic themes since becoming Pope:

If we follow the lead of the martyrs and take the Lord at his word, then we will understand the sublime freedom and joy with which they went to their death . . . The legacy of the martyrs can inspire all men and women of good will to work in harmony for a more just, free and reconciled society, thus contributing to peace and the protection of authentically human values in this country and in our world. 

In his address to leaders of the apostolate of the laity the Pope spoke once again of faith as a gift, as a legacy handed down to us:

The Church in Korea, as we all know, is heir to the faith of generations of lay persons who persevered in the love of Christ Jesus and the communion of the Church despite the scarcity of priests and the threat of severe persecution . . . This precious legacy lives on in your own works of faith, charity and service. Today, as ever, the Church needs credible lay witnesses to the saving truth of the Gospel, its power to purify and transform human hearts, and its fruitfulness for building up the human family in unity, justice and peace. We know there is but one mission of the Church of God, and that every baptized Christian has a vital part in this mission. Your gifts as lay men and women are manifold and your apostolates varied, yet all that you do is meant to advance the Church’s mission by ensuring that the temporal order is permeated and perfected by Christ’s Spirit and ordered to the coming of his Kingdom.

The faith was introduced to Korea by Korean laymen who were part of a delegation to Beijing and who discovered the faith there.

The inspiring words of Pope Francis were meant not only to confirm Korean Catholics in their faith but all of us. Faith is the most precious gift that God has given us but one that can be lost by individuals and by whole areas of the world. North Africa is one example, where the Christian faith disappeared everywhere except in Egypt and Ethiopia after the rise of Islam. Western Europe is another example, where the Christian faith has been rapidly disappearing in recent decades, as it has to a lesser degree in North America.Two generations ago Quebec in Canada had a flourishing Church that was sending missionaries to many parts of the world, including the Philippines, but where it is now pretty much on the margins.

The words of Jesus to Peter show us clearly that our faith is a gift: Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.

May we thank God each day for the gift of our faith and ask for the grace for ourselves and for Pope Francis to live it as the Korean martyrs did, with the sublime freedom and joy with which they went to their death.

In the words with which Pope Francis concluded his homily at the beatification of the 124 martyrs: 

May the prayers of all the Korean martyrs, in union with those of Our Lady, Mother of the Church, obtain for us the grace of perseverance in faith and in every good work, holiness and purity of heart, and apostolic zeal in bearing witness to Jesus in this beloved country, throughout Asia, and to the ends of the earth. Amen.


The following petition was added to the Prayer of the Faithful at the Pope's Mass for Reconciliation in Myeong-dong Cathedral, Seoul, on 18 August before he flew back to Rome:

Prayer for Cardinal Filoni for Iraq:

For Cardinal Fernando Filoni, who cannot be with us because he was sent by the Pope to the suffering people of Iraq in order to assist our persecuted and dispossessed brothers and sisters, and all the religious minorities who are afflicted in that country. May the Lord be close to him in his mission.

May we continue to pray for all who are being persecuted in Iraq and Syria, especially those who are suffering because they are Christians.

A report on Arirang TV, Korea, a few days before the beatifications.

Antiphona ad introitum   Entrance Antiphon  Cf Ps 85[86]:1-3

Inclina, Domine, aurem tuam ad me, et exaudi me.
Turn your earl, O Lord, and answer me;
Salvum fac servum tuum, Deus meus, sperantem in te.
save the servant who trusts in you, my God.
Miserere mihi, Domine, quoniam ad te clamavi tota die.
Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I cry to you all the day long.

Laetifica animam servi tui, quia ad te, Domine, animam meam levavi.
Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, Lord, I lift my soul.

Inclina, Domine, aurem tuam ad me, et exaudi me.
Turn your earl, O Lord, and answer me;
Salvum fac servum tuum, Deus meus, sperantem in te.
save the servant who trusts in you, my God.
Miserere mihi, Domine, quoniam ad te clamavi tota die.
Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I cry to you all the day long.

[The text above in bold print is sung or said in the Ordinary Form of the Mass; in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass the whole text above is sung or said.]

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