Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi. He asked his disciples, «Who do people say the Son of Man is?». They said, «For some of them you are John the Baptist, for others Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the prophets». Jesus asked them, «But you, who do you say I am?». Peter answered, «You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God». Jesus replied, «It is well for you, Simon Barjona, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. And now I say to you: You are Peter (or Rock) and on this rock I will build my Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and what you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven». Then He ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
From that day Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that He must go to Jerusalem; He would suffer many things from the Jewish authorities, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law. He would be killed and be raised on the third day. Then Peter took him aside and began to reproach him, «Never, Lord! No, this must never happen to you». But Jesus turned to him and said, «Get behind me, Satan! You would have me stumble. You are their king not as God does, but as people do».
Jesus reveals to the world for the first time His passion, death and resurrection. It is in faith that we can understand the economy of salvation proposed by the Lord. Let us be clear that this faith is a gift from God. However, external elements can help us to identify this faith that gives us life. Sometime, we may not be aware, how God works in and through us. Peter himself did not know that it was God Himself who revealed to him that Jesus was the Son of God. Jesus had to reveal this divine work in Peter. God doesn't hesitate to remind us and help us to understand the divine mysteries in us.
For this, Jesus invites us to look at the world with an open eye, an eye of faith, for this world itself is an image of God, a divine revelation. To hear and listen to all that the world says about Jesus, even if it is not necessary for our faith, yet humanly they play an important role in our faith formation. From this exteriority, "Who is the Son of Man, according to what men say?", Jesus invites us to our interiority, "And you, what do you say? Who am I to you? It is from this interiority, the disciples are called to announce the Good News.
Even though this revelation is total and perfect in itself, we must humbly acknowledge that our commitment is weak and we can easily make mistakes in our discernment, like Peter who will make his reproaches. We need to watch ourselves all the time so that we do not fall into the traps of the devil, who always acts in the name of good, like Peter who wanted the best for his Master, totally contrary to the divine will. If Jesus was hard on Peter, because this thought had its origin in the devil's lie.
For me personally Peter's weakness and his election as the head of the Church is a consolation, because in him I also hope for my divine consolation. That is why I would avoid at all costs the murmuring of the people of Israel in the first reading of the day and would not strike the rock twice. Even if I am mistaken, I can always hope for the guidance of this God who understood Peter's weakness. As Paul says, it is in our weakness that we find the divine strength.
Action of the day: Be ready to choose the Cross, if God so wills.
«You are their king not as God does, but as people do»
Fr. Joaquim MESEGUER García
(Rubí, Barcelona, Spain)
Today, Jesus proclaims Peter very fortunate for his rightful faith declaration: «Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’. Jesus replied ‘It is well for you, Simon Barjona, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you but my Father in heaven’» (Mt 16:16-17). By this congratulation Jesus promises Peter the primacy of his Church; but, shortly after, He scolds Peter for having a very human and wrong idea of what the Messiah would do: «Then Peter took him aside and began to reproach him, ‘Never, Lord! No, this must never happen to you’. But Jesus turned to him and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You would have me stumble. You are their king not as God does, but as people do’» (Mt 16:22-23).
We have to be grateful to the evangelists for presenting us the first disciples of Jesus as they actually were: no idealized characters, but people of flesh and blood as ourselves, with their defects and virtues; which gets them closer to us and helps us to see that perfecting ourselves in Christian life is a certain path we all have to follow, for nobody is born knowing all the answers.
As we already know how history goes, let us accept Jesus Christ was the suffering Messiah prophet Isaiah announced who offered his life in the Cross. What is more difficult to accept is that we must keep on presenting his work by following the same path of surrendering, renunciation and sacrifice. Imbued, as we appear to be, with a society that encourages quick success, learning without any effort and in a funny way, and achieving the maximum profit with the least possible strain, it should not surprise us we end up by seeing things more as people do than as God does. Once he received the Holy Spirit, Peter learned where the path he had to follow went through and he lived by this expectation. «World tribulations are full of sadness and empty of any prizes; but those we suffer for God are softened by the hope of an eternal prize» (St. Ephraem).