“What to do When You Haven’t Explained Yourself” (Gospel Reflection)
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One of the best ways to enrich your experience at Sunday Mass is to pray the Mass Readings personally and to meditate on a Gospel reflection.
A great way of doing this is using the technique of Lectio Divina, a powerful method which we explain here. The following is the Sunday Gospel reading with a reflection that is especially aimed at youth.
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This week, Fr. Piccolo reflects on Matthew 16:13-20, the Gospel reading for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time.
We hope that it helps you in your personal prayer and that it serves as a resource that you can share with your apostolate.
Gospel of the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Mt. 16:13-20)
Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
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Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. 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. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
The Gospel of the Lord
“Think not that I for pride and stubbornness
Am silent: rather is my heart the prey
Of gnawing thoughts, both for the past, and now
Seeing myself by vengeance buffeted.”
~ Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound
“The kiss burns in his heart, but the old man holds to his former idea.” These are the words that conclude the encounter between the Grand Inquisitor and the man he holds to be the Messiah in his second coming, told by Dostoyevsky in The Brothers Karamozov. The Inquisitor, who must defend the faith, feels as if this person who lives the Gospel so radically has put his life in crisis. The Grand Inquisitor’s faith is an immutable index of propositions that leave no room for uncertainty.
Nevertheless, we experience that life never progresses linearly: what have others understood about me? What have I understood about myself? Am I able to enclose myself in a definition? When we realize that other people really haven’t understood a thing about us, we have two possibilities: either disappoint the people who had set false expectations about us or try to live up to those expectations.
Today’s Gospel shows Jesus trapped amidst distorted and partial interpretations of His identity. Jesus is not afraid to take risks. He sees that there has been a communication breakdown and He questions his disciples about what has happened to His message.
What about us? Do we have the same courage to stop the speculation and ask what people really think about us?
Several things come out of the survey He takes. Some consider Him a moralist like John the Baptist, a chastiser; others point out the controversies and the critical dimension of His teaching, holding a partial vision of Him, considering Him to be a stern prophet like Elijah or Jeremiah who were both persecuted for their positions. Others see nothing special about Him and consider Him to be like any other prophet.
Even when we understand who the other person truly is, that doesn’t mean that we are willing to accept the consequences: the Grand Inquisitor recognizes Christ, but is unable to accept the consequences of His return and he lets Him go so that everything may be forgotten quickly.
Peter also recognizes Christ but he resists accepting the consequences. Christ accepts that He will die; He is not Peter’s idea of a triumphant God, a successful and safe God. And Peter is not ready to accept this aspect of God.
Despite his inadequacy, Jesus trusts in Peter fully. He entrusts him with the community, He gives him the power to welcome and to exclude, to bind and to loose. In fact, throughout all the scriptures, God shows himself as always trusting in human mediation, no matter how inadequate it is. It’s no surprise then when we see the inadequacy of those who guide us through some parts of our lives.
Within the mysterious events of history, we are called simply to walk the path towards an ever-deeper knowledge of the person of Christ, without deluding ourselves into thinking we know everything about him, but also without becoming discouraged by the misunderstandings and doubts generated by His (sometimes disappointing) way of appearing in our lives.
Questions for personal reflection:
- What ideas do others hold about you?
- What ideas do you hold about Jesus?