Homily August 24, 2014 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time
In today’s gospel, we see Jesus ask a question of his Apostles reflecting Jesus’ time and culture. People of his culture measured their thought and identity through a collective look of what others thought. So in effect, Jesus in asking “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” is basically asking in our parlance, “How am I doing?” For him it is a moment in his early ministry to look at himself and his Apostles. Of course, 12 men in any culture will contribute answers from the ridiculous to the impossible to the absurd. But Jesus wasn’t finished, he wanted to know what the apostles themselves thought. So he asked what they thought. As a former teacher, I know what I is like to ask a tough question. Suddenly there is silence, uneasiness, glancing around, nervous coughing, more silence.Then a humbled voice speaks up. And so it was that Peter spoke up. A spokesman for the 12. But Jesus tells us Peter was chosen, blessed by His Father, to speak up, to put in words the experience and knowledge of the others, the revelation of His Father. All through the Israelite writings and psalms, God was their rock and savior, and now the rock for Peter and the Apostles. As this is an important moment, Jesus gives Simon a nickname: Peter or Rock or today we would say Rocky. The moment forever changes his name for generations to come as he and the Apostles were given the mission to carry on and build the church binding together all the world for a future life and forming an entity, a fellowship, that no evil could prevail against it.
We know evil is in the world an ever-present challenge to every woman and man and child, and even in the institutions and governments in all times and ages. Throughout history believers have been subjected to evil and some have succumbed to it, but still Christ’s church and believers remain. Like a rubber band we have been pulled and stretched but have not broken. All of humanity has faults and we all fall short of what our faith calls us to do at one time or another. But Jesus in his Humanity and Divinity is there and understands and forgives.
Further, to his church, through his Apostles, he gives the keys to the kingdom of heaven. And to whom do you give the keys to your home? Who do you give free reign to your home? It is a unique binding together of believers and a task for the Apostles to open the door and to watch and protect the people at the same time. The church after all is the Body of Christ, people uniquely united to each part contained in that body. Each time or century, each culture, each country presents new challenges for Christ’s people to advance toward the kingdom of God. Knowledge, Science, Culture, the world itself with its possibilities and constraints all present challenges as the successors of the Apostles and early Christians pass on the faith to the people of our time. Christ is still the Son of the Living God who still calls us to bind together and journey with him to his father. That Faith today is just as important as it was for Peter. It will be there for us as it was for Peter and the Apostles, our openness to it being the only requirement. Faith is the best vehicle on the road.