21 Sunday A - Who do you say I am?



Summary:

1.     Who Do People Say He Is?
2.     Who Do You Say He Is?
3.     What Are We Called to Do?
 
1.     Feedback – Communication
2.     Recognition – Messiah: Title & Sacrifice
3.     Authority –Dependability – Rock

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Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration

We have gathered here as the disciples of Jesus, we declare that he is present among us, we are about to share his table. But who is the One we follow? That is the question that is posed in today’s gospel, and we hear Peter’s resounding answer: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Let us spend a moment in prayer and reflection, asking the Father to reveal to us now a deeper awareness of who it is in whose name we have assembled and into whose presence we have come.

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Michel DeVerteuil
General Comments


This is a difficult passage for us Catholics to meditate on because in our Church it is nearly always read with an apologetic purpose – to reinforce (or persuade others of) our faith in the primacy of the Pope and the infallibility of his teaching office. The apologetic purpose is important but in meditation we go further and discover in the text a message that will help us grow spiritually and experience the work of God in our lives.

The passage tells the story in three stages:
- verses 13 to 16, the dialogue between Jesus and his disciples leading to Peter’s confession;
- verses 17 to 19, Jesus bequeaths his authority to Peter;
- verse 20, conclusion: Jesus gives them “strict orders” not to tell anyone he is the Christ.
At all three stages we can focus either (a) on Jesus or (b) on those he relates with.

-  Verses 13-16: Jesus is proclaimed to be “the Christ, the son of the living God”, but as always in the gospels we should not isolate him from our experience. The passage invites us to recognise in this incident similar experiences in our lives and in the lives of great people we have known – “anointed ones”, the “sons and daughters of the living God”.

So too we need not read the story of Jesus in a static way, as if he is settled in his identity. Once we choose to identify with his experience, we will naturally see him as making a journey to enter into his identity, and Peter as the one who affirms him on the way. This interpretation in no way takes away from Jesus’ divinity. It merely reminds us of the sacredness of the journey to self; we make the journey precisely because we are in the image and likeness of God. 

Simple enough question ?

Interpreted in this perspective, the question “who do people say the Son of Man is?” tells us where Jesus is in his life’s journey. Caesarea Philippi is a watershed moment in his life; he feels the need to clarify where he is – has he established himself? communicated his  message? been who he is called to be? As always happens to us if we are honest in our self questioning as Jesus is, he is blessed to have someone like Peter, a “disciple”,  affirm him as “the Christ, the son of the living God”.

Peter on the other hand is at the stage where he knows he must take a stand on the master he is following. He must answer from the truth of himself, not “who do people say he is?” but “who do I say he is?”. We celebrate the person (it may be an event or God himself in a moment of prayer) who brings us to the point where we have to affirm the “lordship” of Jesus or someone (a cause) in which he is incarnate.

- Verses 17-20: Here is another watershed moment in Jesus’ life, when he becomes conscious that he has found someone to whom he can hand over his mission. We experience similar moments when, as parents, teachers, friends, leaders of political parties or social movements, we realise with great joy that someone is going to carry on our work. Every aspect of Jesus’ words is significant:
- He feels deep humility, an overwhelming sense of gratitude that this is the work not of flesh and blood but of God.
- He feels unbounded confidence in the future. This person is a sure foundation, a “rock”, and “the gates of the underworld” will not “hold out” against him or her.
- He is very happy to hand over his authority, to give this person “the keys of the kingdom”. The authority is practical – it includes both “binding and loosing.”
- He does this handing over with confidence too; whatever decision the “disciple” takes will be “considered” ratified “in heaven”.
Looking back on similar moments in our lives we may find that the “Peter” we celebrated later disappointed us – lost the vision, betrayed us, turned out to be corrupt. The subsequent disappointment does not however take away from the sacredness of the original experience.
It is a wonderful moment for Peter too. He experiences himself as receiving a mandate to bind and to loose with the confidence that whichever decision he takes will be ratified in heaven.

- Verse 20:  Here again we can focus on Jesus. He represents us when we realise that the truth of what we are about is something we can share only with our confidantes, not with everyone.
For the disciples it is the moment when they know with deep conviction (“gave them strict orders”) that they cannot reveal the revolutionary character of their leader or cause. 

Scripture Prayer Reflection

       “To have humility is to experience reality
not in relation to ourselves but in its sacred independence.”
Dag Hammarskjold
Lord, many people today are drifting through life, unsure of their identity.
Remind them that your son Jesus too had to make the journey to being himself.
Send them humble companions like Simon Peter who will see them in their truth,
not replicas of anyone else, but your sons and daughters,
anointed by you for a particular mission in the world.

Lord, there was a time when we felt discouraged, wondering if our work was in vain.
Then we came to a place, our own Caesarea Philippi,
and we found that there were people who understood what we were about;
we knew at that moment that the cause we had given our lives for
was now on a solid foundation,
the forces of evil would not hold out against it,
and we could hand it over with confidence to our successors.

Lord, every once in a way you send us young people who are special to us
their teachers, parents or community leaders.
Whereas others have only a vague idea of the message we are trying to convey,
they understand it perfectly.
We experience them as a gift,
we know that it was not our hard work that revealed things to them;
it was you yourself who taught them.
Without being able to prove it, we know for certain that they will never fail us.
Thank you Lord, for these blessed ones.

“Under the pontificate of John Paul II the Church has discovered itself as a
companion in humanity’s pilgrimage, no longer a fortress under siege.” 
…Cardinal Koenig
Lord, we thank you that Jesus saw himself as a companion of his disciples.
He entered into dialogue with them,
asking them to share with him how they saw his mission.
Naturally they were surprised;
they were not accustomed to teachers who would relate to them like this,
and so they did not speak from their own conviction
but repeated what the learned people of the time were saying.
Jesus wanted them to share what was deep within them
because he knew that when people do that
it is not merely flesh and blood that is at work in them but you yourself.
And so their little community grew together,
built on the rock of trust and sharing a foundation so solid
that the gates of the underworld could never hold out against it.

Slaves wrested God from their captors.”  …Derek Walcott, Caribbean poet reflecting on a Third World culture finding itself
Lord, we thank you for sending us great artists who make us aware
that we have allowed others to keep us bound;
now we are set free and no power on earth can bind us again.

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul
       And sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.”  …Emily Dickinson
Lord, we thank you for the wonderful gift of the sacrament of reconciliation.
We remember the times when the priest told us
that we were free from the bondage of our sins
and we knew that what was loosed there in the confessional
was loosed in your presence in heaven.

Lord, forgive us Church workers that we like to draw attention to ourselves,
arrogating to ourselves sacred titles like “prophet” or “anointed one”.
Help us to be humble like Jesus when he gave his disciples strict orders
not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
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Homily notes

1. There are, at least, three different directions that a homily based on today’s gospel can go down:

First, the confession of who Jesus is, and then the homily focuses on christology;

Second, who / what the church is that was founded on the apostles, and then the homily focuses on ecclesiology; or

Third, the focus is on Peter and / or the keys, and the memory of Rome and the papacy, and then the homily will have an apologetics or ecumenics focus because this Petrine ministry is an aspect of the church that is not just disputed with the churches of the Reformation, but with the ancient churches of the East (e.g. the Greeks and the Syrians) and of Africa (e.g. the Copts and the Ethiopians).

1. The problem is that all three of these themes have to be given attention in today’s liturgy; but if you try to give all equal prominence, then you overload the whole system. More pointedly, if in a homily of 7 minutes, or less, you try to cover all of them, then you will probably fail to communicate anyone of them adequately. The nature of human communications decrees that you choose one of the three possible di­rections and focus on it in the homily, and then let the rest of the liturgy draw attention to the other themes (e.g. The Preface of the Apostles can draw attention to the apostolic nature of the church).

2. I am opting in the rest of these notes for the theme of christology. My reason for this choice is that there are likely to be many people in an average congregation with a defective understanding of who we believe Jesus to be, and sound doctrine on this core of Christian faith (as this gospel itself makes clear) is the presupposition of concerns with ecclesiology or ecumenics.

3. Let us begin, just as today’s gospel does, with a question. Who is Jesus? There are, of course, a raft of answers: some from those who dismiss him, some from those who are vaguely interested in him or in religion, and some from those who have encountered his message and have followed him in one way or another. It is this third group that are our concern. Jesus did not ask disciples an open question (e.g. what do you think people make of me? To which they might have replied: ‘Well, the Romans think you are just another Jewish hot head; while the priests in the temple think you are another heretic; while the followers think you are great!, but rather he asked them about who the followers – that is those who knew him as the Son of Man – thought he was. This is a question about the integrity of our belief and our preaching as his church.

4. The range of opinions (John the Baptist, Elijah, a prophet) held by Jesus’s followers among those who first heard the gospel may be far closer to ways of viewing Jesus held in the average congregation today than you would expect!

5. The first position is that Jesus is another John the Baptist. Jesus was influenced by John; but while both proclaimed the closeness of the kingdom, they presented very different visions. John preached repentance, for the coming of the kingdom would be the great crunch when God would mete out his justice. Jesus came saying the kingdom was at hand when the Father would mete our forgiveness and mercy, and inaugur­ate the reign of peace and love. Jesus ate with prostitutes and tax collectors, and was criticised for this (Mt 9:10-11); John spent his time telling these people about the wickedness of their lives and warning them of the future retribution. Many then, and now, would prefer such a finger wagging, ‘Tell it to them straight,’ type of religious leader than the incarnation of the gentleness and forgiveness that is the Lord.

6. The second position is that Jesus is another Elijah. When we hear words like ‘lord’ we thing of a mighty leader who can march his men on to victory over opponents. If God is going to save his people, we sometimes imagine, the best way to do it would be with a great wonder-working person who can intervene, stop things happening, and get things moving. That was exactly how Elijah was remembered. When he took on the prophets of BaaI, they were roundly shown to be frauds through God’s power, gathered up and slaughtered’ and not one escaped’ (1 Kgs 18). This is a powerful type of saviour whom people must respect, and who shows who is really in charge. And, deep down, many of us would like Jesus, just now and then, to show the world just who is in charge. You may think this is not so; but consider the fact that the legend of St Patrick is based on him being another Elijah; while many private revelations (St Margaret Mary or Fatima) have elements of John the Baptist and Elijah bound up in them. But just as Matthew presents Jesus as very different to John, so also he presents him as very different to Elijah; at the moment of his arrest Jesus asks: ‘Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?’ Those who like an Elijah-style Christ would have had the twelve squadrons ‘buzz’ the scene, even if they do not go all the way and call in an air­strike!

7. The third position is that Jesus is just one more wise religious leader who calls or recalls people to the faith they already held. Jesus’s work was not just a ‘re-heating’ of the religious wisdom, but the establishment of a new community, a new covenant, a people intimate with the Father. Jesus is the ‘new wine’ (Mt 9:17) who has established the new relationship between us and the Father, and between us as sisters and brother.

8. This gentle, forgiving Christ offering us adoption by our loving Fatherm- so unlike the expectations of religious people then or now – is revealed to us, not by flesh and blood, but by the Father himself.
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John Litteton
Gospel Reflection

The people who knew Jesus, including some of his disciples, believed him to be a great prophet, such as John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the other prophets. But, when asked by Jesus to offer an opinion about his identity, Peter said: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (Mt 16:16).

Jesus made clear that this was a particular grace from God which allowed Peter, from among all the apostles and disciples, to discern the true identity of Jesus. In this way, Peter announced his belief that Jesus was the promised Messiah who had come to deliver God’s people from the bondage of sin. Jesus was much more than a prophet, and Peter was divinely inspired to acknowledge this truth.

The public manifestation of Peter’s faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Anointed One, was immediately rewarded by Christ who wanted Peter to know two facts. First, he had been especially blessed by God in being given this knowledge. 

Secondly, Peter was given a singularly important role in the infant Church: ‘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’

(Mt 16:18-19).

Thus we find an instance of the Old Testament custom of changing names at a pivotal moment in the salvation history of the Chosen People. For example, in the case of Abraham, we read: ‘You shall no longer be called Abram; your name shall be Abraham, for I make you father of a multitude of nations’ (Gen 17:5). Similarly, regarding Jacob, we read: ‘Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel’ (Gen 32:28).

Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter (meaning rock), explaining that it would be upon the rock of Peter that the Church would be built. Just as the Father had given Peter special insight into the identity of Jesus, so Christ now delegated his own authority to Peter and his successors.

Interestingly, after giving authority to Peter, Jesus commanded his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. This command has been much debated because in other places in the gospels Jesus did not deny that he was the Messiah, most famously when speaking with the Samaritan woman at the well. When she mentioned the Messiah, Jesus replied: I who am speaking to you, I am he’ (In 4:25).

There are several reasons why Jesus instructed Peter and the others to remain silent about his identity, not least to protect them from harm because, as subsequent verses indicate, they had not yet been prepared by Jesus for the persecutions to come. However, the important lesson for us in these verses is that here we are reminded of the supernatural origins of the papacy. Peter and those popes who followed him have their crucial leadership role in the Church by divine mandate.

Therefore, when the Pope speaks definitively (that is, finally) on matters of faith and morality, teaching something that must be held by all the faithful, Catholics are bound to obey and adhere to that teaching. This definite teaching need not always come in the form of a public pronouncement, but applies whenever the Pope is repeating teachings that have always been accepted by the Church from the earliest days. The Pope’s authority is limited, however, in that his office is one of guardianship. He is to guard, promote and teach the Christian faith but he is not authorised to add anything to it.

It is difficult being the Pope in the contemporary world when the teaching of Christ and the moral law often challenge modern fashions and trends. So let us pray for the Pope who is charged with upholding and defending the Church’s teachings.

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Fr. Thomas G. Morrow 

One priest smiled when his first pastor proclaimed, whimsically, that when he was an associate, he had to bow and scrape to his pastor, and now that he was a pastor, he had to bow and scrape to the associates. He was joking, but there was some truth to what he said.

The priest saw a similarity to when his father had died. Associates might have felt more independence, but they also lost the benefit of a father figure, one who could guide them in their mission as new priests. The better the pastor, the more they lost.

In our Gospel reading today, Jesus gave a “father” to his Church in Peter, a “papa.” And he gave Peter and the Church an astounding promise. To the Church: “On this rock (Petrus) I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” And to Peter: “I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you bind on earth, will be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth, will be loosed in heaven.”

Jesus gave Peter this power to lead his Church only after Peter spoke up among all the apostles to proclaim that Jesus was “the Christ (Greek for “Messiah”), the son of the living God.” Jesus commended Peter for saying that, and indicated that it was a grace of the Father that inspired him to do so. It was based on that profession of faith that Peter was made head of the Church.

It was thus that our Lord promised to make him first among the apostles, and the guarantor of the unity of his Church. By giving the keys to Peter, Christ was symbolically giving Peter dominion over the Kingdom of God on earth. By saying Peter could bind and loose, our Lord used rabbinical terms to say Peter would be interpreter of the Law, and could pronounce something to be forbidden—that is, bound, or permitted—that is, loosed. This is a wide power that goes beyond his teaching power to the whole area of jurisdiction.

Jesus promised the power at this point, but it was after the resurrection that he actually conferred it. We read at the end of the Gospel of John:

When they had eaten their meal, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” At which Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

A second time he put his question, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” “Yes Lord,” Peter said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus replied, “Tend my sheep.”

A third time, Jesus asked him, “Simon, son of John do you love me?” Peter was hurt because he had asked a third time, “Do you love me?” So he said to him: “Lord, you know everything. You know well that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17).

Here Christ singled Peter out to be the chief shepherd of his Church, and nowhere else does he ask any of his apostles to “feed his sheep.”

Are there other indications for the primacy of Peter over all the other apostles? Yes. The Lord, shortly before his passion, said to Peter:

“Simon, Simon! Remember that Satan has asked for you, to sift you all like wheat. But I have prayed for you (singular, meaning Simon) that your faith may never fail. You, in turn, must strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32).

So, as Bishop Sheen used to say, if we want to share in the prayer of Christ, we must stay with Peter. Also, Peter conducted the election of Mathias, who took the place of Judas (Acts 1:15-26). And Peter is the first to speak on Pentecost, and at the Council of the Apostles in Jerusalem (Acts 2:14-36; 15:7-11).

Was all this limited to Peter, or did Christ intend it to continue to his successors? It’s hard to believe that Christ would provide a leader, a source of unity for his Church, only until the death of Peter. Surely, it was in his office as leader of the Church that Peter was given this power. So, this power is passed on to his successors, the popes. That was well understood from the beginning.

What a blessing it is to have a spiritual “father” in the pope, with whom Christ promised to remain. He is there to support and guide us, to provide real unity to Christ’s followers. Yes, following him diminishes our independence, but when striving to love, it is not independence that we seek, but being bound to the beloved. The pope guides us to that love. 

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Peter's Successors from Father Clyde A. Bonar, Ph.D. 

Peter's successors have been like Peter — mostly strong, sometimes weak. Mostly popes have been both holy men of God, but a few showed very human weaknesses.

No doubt, Pope John Paul II (1920-2006) was a hero. That pope looked every bit the part. On the ski slopes in his younger years, John Paul showed the robust shape of an outdoors man. Seen at prayer, the Pope looked like he was in the presence of God himself. Even as he aged, a magic filled the air as John Paul came among his people. Truly Pope John Paul II was a saintly man.

And we can readily think of other holy men who have been Peter's successors. Pope Gregory VII (1020-1085) reformed our Church. It was the eleventh century. Dark days for the Church. Abuses everywhere, there was widespread immorality among the clergy, ecclesiastic appointments could be bought. By his reforms, Gregory re-asserted Christ as the center of His Church. We now call him Saint Gregory VII.

We remember Pope John XXIII (1881-1963). Elected pope as an old man of 76, John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council. Inspired by God, Pope John XXIII, allowed a fresh breath from the Holy Spirit to blow through our Roman Catholic Church. The whole Church was affected.

Holy men have been popes. But questionable men have also sat in the pope’s chair. All kinds of rumors spread about three John’s, the Tenth, the Eleventh, and the Twelfth, three popes named John in the tenth century. One story reports that Pope John X (d. 928) had a mistress, her name was Theodora. Another rumor tells us that Pope Sergius III (d. 911) seduced a lady named Mazoria. A son was born, and by her intrigues, years later Mazoria had their son elected as Pope John XI (d. 936). Another John, the XII (d. 964), was wicked. A coarse, a sinful man [he was caught in the act of adultery].

But God did not guarantee there would be no weak men among the popes. What God did promise is that "the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against" the Church. Yes, we know, a few scoundrels have been popes. But, by far our Church has had holy popes, like our present pope, Benedict XVI, or John Paul II or John XXIII or St. Gregory. Peter's successors have been just like Peter: sometimes weak human beings, mostly strong men of faith. 

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From the Connections:

THE WORD:

 In Matthew’s Gospel, Peter’s confession of faith is a turning point in the ministry of Jesus.  Jesus will now concentrate on preparing his disciples to take on the teaching ministry and leadership of the Church he will establish. 

The scene of today’s Gospel, Caesarea Philippi, was the site of temples dedicated to no less than 14 different pagan gods, ranging from the Syrian god Baal to Pan, the Greek god of nature.  In the middle of the city was a great white temple built by Herod and dedicated to the “divinity” of Caesar (hence the name of the city).  In the midst of this marketplace of gods and temples, Jesus first indicates his plans and hopes for his church.

Jesus “sets up” Peter’s declaration of faith by asking his disciples what people are saying about him.  Many believed that Jesus is the reincarnation of John the Baptizer or the long-awaited return of the prophets Elijah or Jeremiah (Malachi 4: 5-6), whose return would signal the restoration of Israel.  Simon Peter, however, has been given the gift of faith (“flesh and blood has not revealed this to you”) and unequivocally states that Jesus is the Messiah. 

Jesus blesses Simon with the new name of “rock” (Kepha in Aramaic, Petros in Greek), indicating that his faith will be the foundation for Jesus’ new Church.  Peter is entrusted with the keys of the kingdom of heaven (an image drawn from Isaiah 22: 15-25, today's first reading) and the mission to bring sins to consciousness and to proclaim to sinners the love and forgiveness of God. 

HOMILY POINTS:

The question Jesus poses to Peter and his disciples is asked of us every minute of every day.  Every decision we make is ultimately a response to the question, Who do you say I am?  Our love for family and friends, our dedication to the cause of justice, our commitment to the highest moral and ethical standards, our taking the first step toward reconciliation and forgiveness, our simplest acts of kindness and charity declare most accurately and effectively our belief in the Gospel Jesus as the Messiah and Redeemer.

Peter is the first of the disciples to grasp the divinity of Christ.  On the faith of Peter “the rock” Christ establishes his Church.  Peter becomes, then, the first stone in the foundation of the Church.  We who are baptized into the faith handed down to us by Peter and the apostles become stones of Christ’s new church; the faith we live and the hope we cherish in the empty tomb of Easter are the foundation of the Church of the Risen One. 

The “keys of the kingdom of heaven” entrusted by Christ to us, his Church, are hope, trust and understanding; they are the authority to proclaim, in our personal works of charity and various ministries, the presence of God in our midst.  These “keys” enable others to discover the presence of God in their own lives; these keys can open up to us the mysteries of God's great love for all of humanity as revealed to us in the Risen. 

‘You, too, are Peter’

Like most Moms, her life is a whirlwind of carpooling, cooking, shopping, laundry, cleaning, guiding, mending and managing.  But she happily spends an hour each Tuesday after school in the church basement helping the parish’s second-graders prepare for their First Communion.  This Mom is Peter — a rock of Jesus’ church.

Every week he makes his “rounds” of a dozen elderly shut-ins who can no longer come to Mass on Sunday.  He brings the Eucharist, along with his good cheer and generosity, offering to run any errands his “congregation” might need.  And each Sunday, when he and his wife attend Mass, he prays for those on his “call list.”  He, too, is Peter — Jesus has built his church on kindness like his. 

They show up a good half-hour before Mass.  They make sure everything is ready and in place for the liturgy.  During Mass itself, wearing their albs, they quietly hold the missal for the celebrant and assist with the water and wine.  They are almost invisible as they go about their duties — yet they make it possible for the celebrant and other ministers to carry out their service to the community.  Our young servers and acolytes, too, are Peter — Christ is present to us in their generous service. 

The ministry of Peter the “rock” belongs to every one of us who has taken on the name of Christ in baptism.  Christ has built his church on the “rock” of faith, conviction, generosity and kindness of everyday men and women like the fisherman Peter and you and me who hear Christ’s call to love others with all that we have and are.  Christ calls each one of us to be the “rock” of his church in our own communities and parishes: to bring his love, justice and mercy to whatever place we can, one small act of kindness at a time.   

Andrew Greeley: 

Background:

This story was intended for those followers of Jesus who were worried about the possibility of government persecutions, opposition from other religious groups, and the very slow (as it seemed) progress of Christianity.   

The story says that, as President Roosevelt said when he was inaugurated on 1933, the only thing to fear is fear itself, blind unreasoning terror that paralyzes our every action.   

While the story was told to reassure the very early Christians, it applies to us as much as it did to them. 

Story:

Once upon a time a group of young hikers were  wandering through dense woods. They were singing and having a grand time. As the sun begin to go down, some of them got worried. How are we going to get out of here, they wondered. Their leader, a young woman who was more familiar with the woods better than the others, said confidently don’t worry, I’ll get you out.  I know my way around out here. Well, then it got very cloudy, and there was lightening and thunder and the rain poured down. They ran for cover to an old broken down lean to. It rained for two hours.  

By the time it stopped, it was very dark. The sky was hidden behind clouds and there was no moon to peak out. Blair witch project, someone muttered. One of the girls screamed. One of the boys said there is an animal out there., a big animal and I can hear him. Another girl began to sob and cried out. I’ll never see my family again.  

Take my hand, said the girl who knew her way around. I know the path even in the dark. Well, they stumbled and bumbled through the forest, tripping on tree roots and bumping up against trees, and hearing all kinds of witch like noises. They all blamed their leader for getting them lost. Some said she was going in the wrong direction and threatened to start out on their own, but they were afraid to do that. Then they got very mean and nasty. Are we there yet they moaned like little kids in a car. They were about to break away from the leader. She said just a couple of more minutes.  

You know what happened?  

They stumbled out on the road and their SUV was right there.

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ILLUSTRATIONS: 

From Fr. Tony Kadavil’s Collection: 

1.     What is in a name?

In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Juliet says to Romeo, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." The Journal of the American Medical Association did a study on the names of people in the medical profession in the United States. Doctors’ names included: Needle, Probe, Lance, Ligate, Drill, Scope, Bolt, Pin, Croak and Klutz. On the up side, we find physicians named Fix, Cure, Heal, Brilliant, Able and Best. A vet’s name is Dr. Fish. There is an Episcopal priest in New York City named Donald Goodness. Do names make a difference? Can a person’s name determine his or her destiny? If you had the choice, would you pick Dr. Brilliant or Dr. Klutz? Many actors will take a stage name because their real name is considered unattractive, dull, or amusing for the wrong reason, or because it projects the wrong image, or is considered too “ethnic.” Today’s gospel describes how Jesus who gave Simon a new name Peter made him the bedrock foundation of his Church 

2.      "Suppose Jesus were to come here."

Without the 19th century essayist Charles Lamb, William Shakespeare would be “missing in action.” It was Mr. Lamb's essays that snatched the 17th century playwright from undeserved obscurity after he had been famous for Andy Warhol's fifteen minutes. One night Lamb and his guests were chatting about the Bard over Spanish port and Cuban cigars. "Supposing," one asked Lamb, "Shakespeare were to stroll into our dining room at this moment." The essayist replied, "We would raise a glass of port to the great man." "Supposing," asked another, "Jesus were to come here." Lamb answered, "We would all get down on our knees.” There is the essential difference between the Man from Nazareth and all other great people you can think of. The Christ is God and all others, no matter what their deeds, are but fools strutting on the stage for a brief time and then exit.” (Fr. Gilhooly) 

3.     Mount Rushmore National Memorial:

When one thinks of South Dakota, one thinks of Mount Rushmore. Carved into the mountainside by Gutzon Borglum are the heads of some of the great leaders of the United States. It's ironic that this monument is in the heart of an area sacred to the Lakota and Dakota people whose ancestors possessed the land centuries before George Washington's family came to America. Thousands of Americans visit Mount Rushmore each year. Many come away with flags, patriotic symbols and T- shirts reading, "God Bless America." Perhaps they feel a rush of pride and make resolutions to be better Americans in the future. Let us remember that Christians are part of the rock. Jesus built his Church on the rock of Peter as a reward for his great confession of faith in the divinity of Christ. The members of the Church are given a new face on the same rock, the face of Jesus, as they proclaim his love, mercy, forgiveness in their daily lives. 

4.     Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador,

assassinated in 1980 while defending Jesus, said eloquently: "Christianity is not a collection of truths to be believed or laws to be obeyed. Rather, Christianity is a person. Christianity is Christ." 

5.     "To draw out all his savings?"

A teacher was giving her students a lesson in logic. "Here is the situation," she said. "A man is standing up in a boat in the middle of a river, fishing. He loses his balance, falls in, and begins splashing and yelling for help. His wife in her riverside house hears the commotion, knows he can’t swim, and runs down to the bank. Why do you think she ran to the bank instead of calling for help?" A girl raised her hand and asked, "To draw out all his savings?" In today’s gospel, the disciples are faced with a similar situation – like being in class when the teacher asks a very important question. We want to seem intelligent so we blurt out an answer – not always the right one – but an answer nonetheless. In today’s gospel lesson Peter blurts out an answer that is theologically correct, inspired and amazing.  

6.     Fr. Herbert O’Driscoll uses a wonderful image to explain the structure of the Church.

His idea is to look at all of the last 20 centuries as rings of time, or as concentric circles of time. Today's Christians, in the 21st century, are in the outermost circle, farthest away from the center – which is a Cross. We are brought into the circle, into the faith, in large part because somewhere, somehow, someone in the circle just before ours took us by the hand and said, “Come,” and so drew us in. That is one very important reason why we are here. That person was able to do this for us because someone had taken him or her by the hand and had drawn that person in. And so it went, back through all the centuries until we reach the hands that had actually touched the mark of the nails. In this way, Christ builds his church. We constantly re-live this Gospel story. When we say to Jesus, “You are the Christ,” he says to each of us—“You, too, are Peter, you too, are a rock, and with you, also, I am building my church.” What happened to Peter continues to happen and actually includes us. 

7.     "But how did the other ear get burned?":

On Sunday morning a man showed up at church with both his ears terribly blistered, so his pastor asked, "WHAT happened to YOU?" "I was lying on the couch watching a ball game on TV while my wife was ironing nearby. I was totally engrossed in the game when she went out, leaving the iron near the phone. The phone rang, and keeping my eyes on the TV, I grabbed the hot iron and put it to my ear." "How dreadful," gasped the pastor. "But how did the other ear get burned?" "Well, you see, I'd no sooner hung up and the guy called back!" He just didn't get it. Lots of folks never get it, never understand how life really works, even at the simplest levels. That's why Jesus is pressing his followers — and us — so insistently in today’s Gospel: "Do you understand who I am," he asks, "and what my being here means for you?" (Msgr. Dennis Clarke)

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From Sermons.com 

Jesus and his disciples ventured into the District of Caesarea Philippi, an area about 25 miles northeast of the Sea of Galilee. The region had tremendous religious implications. The place was littered with the temples of the Syrian gods. Here also was the elaborate marble temple that had been erected by Herod the Great, father of the then ruling Herod Antipas. Here also was the influence of the Greek gods. Here also the worship of Caesar as a God himself. You might say that the world religions were on display in this town. It was with this scene in the background that Jesus chose to ask the most crucial questions of his ministry.

He looked at his disciples and in a moment of reflection said: "Who do men say that I am?" The disciples begin sharing with Jesus what they have heard from the people who have been following Jesus: Some say that you are Elijah; others say John the Baptist, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. It's always been this way, Jesus as seen by the masses is seen in so many different ways.

You can speak of Jesus as prophet, holy man, teacher, or spiritual leader, and few will object. But speak of Him as Son of God, divine, of the same nature as the Father, and people will line up to express their disapproval.

Who do people say he is? Who do you say he is? And what are we called to do? Let's take a look at the answers to these three questions... 
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Sin is less something we succumb to or fall into than it is something we are seduced by. And the greatest seduction is pride. Pride is holy halitosis. Like all bad breath, you're the last person to know you have it. 

Last week in Zurich, the pride of a gold medal champion, a 3000 meter steeplechase runner, managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. French runner Mahidine Mekhissi, already a two time European champion, found himself in the final 100 meters of his race. He was well ahead of the rest of the pack. After a long backwards glance confirmed his apparent victory over the trailing field of runners, Mekhissi began to celebrate early. He stripped off his jersey. With the jersey went his identifying race number. He put the jersey and number in his mouth as he cavorted to the finish line, taunting his competitors with the pride of victory. 

Mekhissi's antics did not sit well with his colleagues. Or the race authorities. After multiple complaints were filed by the other competitors, Mekhissi was disqualified. He won. But he lost. He won the race. But he lost the game. Mekhissi was so proud of his prowess that he managed to turn a clear victory into a humiliating defeat. 

The line between pride as honor and pride as hubris is often a hair's breadth distance. The honors that come with personal accomplishments are worthy and welcome. Showcasing one's successes is a bit trickier. Proving one's skills and self-worth in action is one thing. Proclaiming in words one's worthiness to the world is another. 

Our reading for this morning is a portion of Paul's communication to a Gentile congregation in the heart of Rome... 
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The Authority of the Church 

There is general agreement that the phrase "the gates of Hades" is poetic language for the power of death (see Isa. 38:10). What is meant is that the congregation of the new covenant will persist into the age to come despite all the efforts of the powers of darkness to destroy it. "The gates of Hades" may here represent a defensive posture: death will strive to hold in its prison house all who have entered its gates, but the Messiah's congregation will triumphantly storm the gates and rescue those destined for the life of the age to come. 

Douglas R.A. Hare, Interpretation: Matthew, John Knox Press,1993, p.191
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Without the Struggle, There Are No Wings 

A family brought in two cocoons that were about to hatch. They watched as the first one began to open and the butterfly inside squeezed very slowly and painfully through a tiny hole that it chewed in one end of the cocoon. After lying exhausted for about ten minutes following its agonizing emergence, the butterfly finally flew out the open window on its beautiful new wings.

The family decided to help the second butterfly so that it would not have to go through such an excruciating ordeal. So, as it began to emerge, they carefully sliced open the cocoon with a razor blade, doing the equivalent of a Caesarean section. The second butterfly never did sprout wings, and in about ten minutes, instead of flying away, it quietly died.

The family asked a biologist friend to explain what had happened. The scientist said that the difficult struggle to emerge from the small hole actually pushes liquids from deep inside the butterfly's body cavity into tiny capillaries in the wings where they hardened to complete the healthy and beautiful adult butterfly. The lesson? WITHOUT THE STRUGGLE, THERE ARE NO WINGS.
 

Collected Sermons, David E. Leininger
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The Triumph of Jesus 

In 1896, after fifteen centuries, Athens renewed the Olympic Games, thus fulfilling the dream of Baron Pierre de Coubertin of France. You can imagine how proud the Greeks were to host the first modern Olympics. You can also imagine how disappointed they were at their athletes' lack of success in event after event.

The last competition was the marathon. Greece's entrant was named Louis, a shepherd without competitive background. He'd trained alone in the hills near his flock. When the race started, Louis was far back in the pack of marathoners. But as the miles passed he moved up steadily. One by one the leaders began to falter. The Frenchman fell in agony. The hero from the United States had to quit the race. Soon, word reached the stadium that a lone runner was approaching the arena, and the emblem of Greece was on his chest! As the excitement grew, Prince George of Greece hurried to the stadium entrance where he met Louis and ran with him to the finish line.

In this sports tale we have something of the history of the human race. Most historical figures make their impact, achieve a measure of fame, books are written about them, but as the years go by they begin to fade. Less and less is written or spoken of their lives until they rest in relative obscurity.

With Jesus Christ, however, one finds quite an opposite phenomena! Christ started from way back in the pack. He was born in relative obscurity, never had many followers, commanded no army, erected no edifices, wrote no books. He died young, was buried in a borrowed grave, and you'd think he'd be quickly forgotten.

But, no! His reputation has grown so that today he is worshiped on every continent, has more followers than ever before, sixteen times has his picture been on the cover of Time magazine, and his sayings have been translated into more than 200 languages.
 

Stephen M. Crotts / George L. Murphy, Sermons For Sundays: After Pentecost (Middle Third): The Incomparable Christ, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.
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Call Him God 

In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis addressed the inclination to say nice things about Jesus, but to stop short of calling him God. 

He wrote, "I am here trying to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept his claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things that Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic-on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg-or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any of that patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. Nor did he intend to." 

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, MacMillan, 1943, p. 55-56, with thanks to Paul Janke
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 Public Notions of Jesus' Identity 

Some, said Peter, say that you are Elijah. Now why would people think that Jesus was the long deceased prophet Elijah. Elijah was, of course, a highly revered personality in the religious life of the Hebrews. His defeat of the 450 prophets of Baal on the top of Mt. Carmel was a story that was known even by the little children. It was a commonly held belief among the Hebrews that one day Elijah would return and that would mark the end of the world. In the very last passage in the Old Testament, in the Book of Malachi, we find these words: "Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes." 

Most of you have read Charles Schultz's comic strip Peanuts. One day we see that the television is on but there is no one in the room listening to it. The announcer is talking about a golf tournament that is in process. He says: Smith has to make this putt to win the championship. There will be no tomorrow." And just as he says, "There will be no tomorrow," in walks Lucy. She immediately goes into a panic and starts running around and yelling to the other children: The world is coming to an end. They just announced it on television. Her panic quickly spreads as we see all the peanuts kids as they go wildly screaming about. Finally in the last square we see all of the children huddled on top of Snoopy's doghouse waiting for the end of the world. And Charlie Brown finally speaks up with a puzzled voice: I thought that Elijah was supposed to come back first." 

Well Charlie Brown knew his Bible. Elijah was supposed to come back before the end time. When the disciples told Jesus that some people thought he was Elijah, they were expressing a common thought among the people that the end was very near. 

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A Point of Reference 

The state highway department in Pennsylvania once set out to build a bridge working from both sides. When the workers reached the middle of the waterway, they found they were thirteen feet to one side of each other. Albert Steinberg, writing some time ago in the Saturday Evening Post, went on to explain that each crew of workmen had used its own reference point. No wonder they did not connect.

In that same article Steinberg tells about a small disc on the Meades Ranch in north central Kansas where the thirty-ninth parallel from the Atlantic to the Pacific crosses the ninety-eighth meridian running from Canada to the Rio Grande. The National Oceanic Survey, a small federal agency whose business it is to locate the exact positions of every point in the United States, uses the scientifically recognized reference point on the Meades Ranch. So far, no mistakes have been made, and none are expected. All ocean liners and commercial planes come under the survey. The government can build no dams or even launch a missile without this agency to tell it the exact location to the very inch. "Location by approximation," the article goes on to say, "can be costly and dangerous."

That's why there is so much chaos in our society today. Everyone's using their own reference point. What we need is a universal reference point so that we can say, "Here. Here is how the good life is lived."

For Christians there is such a reference point - and that is Jesus. What would Jesus do? That is the question that continually helps us in our quest for right living. Jesus not only revealed the character of God but he also patterned the ideal life for humanity. 

King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
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 One Generation Away from Extinction
 
It has been pointed out that the Church is always one generation from extinction. If we don't spread the Gospel, it will be just one generation away from disappearing from the face of the earth. It's a compelling idea, isn't it? It enhances our sense of Christian responsibility. We need to get out there and work for the Gospel or the Church could fade into history.

Perhaps you have heard the old story about Jesus appearing in heaven just after his resurrection. Jesus is giving a progress report on all that has happened while he was on earth. Moses is there and he asks him, "Well Jesus, did you leave things in capable hands?" 

Jesus responds, "I did. I have left behind Mary and Martha and Peter and the other disciples."

Moses said, "What if they fail?"
Jesus said, "Well, I have established the Church and filled it with the Holy Spirit and they will carry on."

And Moses said, "What if they fail?"
Came the reply, "I have no other plan." 

There's a great tension there. God is at work here in our church but we've been given the keys of the Kingdom. We have work to do and Christ calls us to it. The prophet Micah put it this way: "do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with thy God." 

Brett Blair, www.Sermons.com
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 People See Things Differently

 People see things differently all the time. For example, three people - a minister, an archaeologist, and a cowboy - were getting their first look at the Grand Canyon one day. The minister exclaimed, "Truly this is one of the glories of God!" The archaeologist commented, "What a wonder of nature this is!" And the cowboy said, "Can you imagine trying to find a lost steer in there?" People see things differently.

The Messianic hope of those in the Jewish community who held such a belief was that the Chosen One would reestablish the supremacy of Israel among the great nations of the world. The assumption was that this would be accomplished in a violent and vengeful manner, with the forceful overthrow and total destruction of the current ruling powers. But before this happened, the prophet Elijah would return to herald the coming of the Chosen One. As a result of these hopes, Jesus had to somehow communicate to his disciples and others who had such high hopes for him that what he was offering was something completely different from what they expected.


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Irom Sharmila of Imphal India fasting last 14 years and force fed through tubes by the Govt fighting for a cause - against extra ordinary powers to the military.
Lata Tare of Baramati, MH, India ran at a marathon beating all experienced  and well clad young runners. She was 61, grand mother, wearing a Maharashtrian 9 yard saree, no shoes or sandals. She needed the money for her husband's surgery. She didn't care for the trophy.
Yellavva from Yadgir Dt of Karnataka-400 Km north of Bangalore was 9 nine pregnant with her first child. Her village was totally marooned by flood waters. No ferries, no road connections. She tied pumpkin and other gourd pods on her body for floatation and buoyancy and swam 1 km across 14 feet deep waters and reached a hospital to give birth.
Ramesh Ramanathan is the founder of Bangalore based NGO Janagraha. Studied in US with his wife. Cycling at night from class to pick up his wife working at a McDonald's. They both resigned the jobs to come and work for people.