[21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A, August 24, 2014 / Isa 22:19-23, Ps 138:1-2a, 2b-3, 6+8, Rom 11:33-36, Matt 16:13-20]
Its quiz time and Jesus is asking the questions to his disciples. He starts off doing an informal survey—“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.” Wow, four answers and they are all wrong! If you did a similar informal survey today and asked about the Church or what is faith you may also get many wrong answers. Some would talk about rules and regulations, others might talk about the buildings (forgetting that we are the Church!) In his message for the World Youth Day 2011, Pope Benedict XVI stated “we see a certain ‘eclipse of God’ taking place, a kind of amnesia which, albeit not an outright rejection of Christianity, is nonetheless a denial of the treasure of our faith, a denial that could lead to the loss of our deepest identity” (Message for the 2011 World Youth Day, 1). What is the problem? Or what is the solution? We need to encounter Christ, to have that personal experience of him.
Perhaps that is why Jesus asks the second question: Jesus said to his disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” This is a question for each and every one of us. Don’t rely merely on what others have told you. The reality is you have to answer this question for yourself. It reminds me of what Job said: “I had heard of you by word of mouth, but now my eye has seen you” (Job 42:5). When Jesus asks who do you say that I am, Peter comes out with a great answer, real summa cum laude stuff. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Wow, awesome!
Jesus tells Peter: “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 of 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.”
What are we to make of what Jesus tells Peter? Well it reminds us that as head of the Church, Peter and the Popes have a special place especially when it comes to teaching us and instructing us about matters of faith and morality. Peter is described as a rock and it helps us understand that the Church is founded on a rock. At times this faith is really shaken especially recently in the light of all the scandals involving priests and abuse of their power and position. Can the Church still speak out on matters pertaining to sexuality? Some think not but maybe they were just looking for an excuse or reason to justify their lack of faith or even prejudice against the Catholic faith.
I enjoy very much reading the Church teaching on ethical issues and find it a rock on which to form my conscience and base my judgment.
For example after all the confusion generated by the passage of the RH law and its modifications, it is sobering to read the Church Magisterium on these issues. As a British person, I am slightly weary of solutions offered to the Filipino people by Great Britain, USA etc. I find their reasoning and motives not so “great.” Instead of listening to the politicians I prefer first to listen to the Shepherds of the Church.
Pope John Paul II wrote in regard to reproductive health policies coming from first world countries: “In the face of over-population in the poorer countries, instead of forms of global intervention at the international level—serious family and social policies, programs of cultural development and of fair production and distribution of resources, anti-birth policies continue to be enacted . . . The Pharaoh of old, haunted by the presence and increase of the children of Israel, submitted them to every kind of oppression and ordered that every male child born of the Hebrew women was to be killed (cf. Exodus 1:7-22). Today not a few of the powerful of the earth act in the same way. They too are haunted by the current demographic growth, and fear that the most prolific and poorest peoples represent a threat for the well-being and peace of their own countries. Consequently, rather than wishing to face and solve these serious problems with respect for the dignity of individuals and families and for every person’s inviolable right to life, they prefer to promote and impose by whatever means a massive program of birth control. Even the economic help which they would be ready to give is unjustly made conditional on the acceptance of an anti-birth policy.” (Evangelium vitae 16).
How great we have Mother Church to guide us in such complex issues.
But of course only a person who sincerely searches for the truth can be open to learn from her. So let us pray for the grace to be firm in our faith, to love our Mother Church and to believe what she teaches us. Amen.