21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 22,19-23; Ps 138; Rom 11,33-36; Mt 16,13-20
In today’s Gospel, the Lord poses two questions as regards the perception of His identity and his disciples reply accordingly. With this, the Lord empowers them to have the confidence to speak. He in turn shows humility to listen. He does not argue. “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” In order to reply, the disciples first have to listen to others, they are just relaying what they picked up from others. But in the second question, “Who do you say that I am?” they seem to need to reply from within themselves. Simon proclaims that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Notice how the Lord affirms that his answer comes not from himself but from the heavenly Father.
“Nemo dat quod non habet.” The Lord proves this principle that means “one cannot give what he does not have” to hold true even in or most especially in spiritual matters.
Then Jesus declares Simon to be Peter, the Rock on which He will build his Church. Is the Church built on Peter because he is the Rock, or is he the Rock because the Lord chose to build the Church on him?
We know how earlier Jesus called Simon, Satan, a hindrance, a block to God’s designs. That was when he was speaking only his mind and not what he received from God.
So now we see that Simon Peter does not just courageously speak, he also humbly listens. This is when he is named Peter, a dependable Rock, worthy to be the foundation on which the Lord will build His Church. It is his openness to God, to listen to God that makes him a Rock. But this does not save him from failures.
Simon Peter would fall asleep in the Garden of Gethsemani instead of praying, as Jesus had asked him to do. He would even deny knowing Jesus three times after the Lord’s arrest. Jesus knows it beforehand. But it is in all these human weaknesses that God’s power and mercy all the more shines. Jesus trusts that in the end, Peter is still able to listen and be receptive to God’s promptings. He will be able to discern what is of God and what is not of God – and so worthy to hold the Keys of the Kingdom. We may say that the primacy of Peter is in the authority of his witnessing to God’s love and mercy. As keeper of the keys of the Kingdom, his ministry unlocks and unbinds the sins of our human frailty so we may welcome and be welcomed in the loving embrace of God’s mercy. Simon as Peter or Rock is truly able to support others for he is open and receptive to God’s inspiration. This is the challenge for us as Christians and as monks.
St Benedict begins his monastic rule with an exhortation to listen. “Ausculta, o fili, praecepta Magristi” The Prologue opens with “Listen / Hear, O son to the teachings of the Master!”
Jesus himself listens, not only to his disciples’ replies to his questions. Jesus reveals that he listens to the Father and does only what he hears from Him. He follows only the Father’s will.
“Nemo dat quod non habet.” We can only proclaim God’s will as we are able to first receive it. We too are capable of being recipients of God’s inspiration. And like Simon, we too can be a rock to others, dependable members that form the Church, the Body of Christ. It is the Father who reveals the true identity of Jesus to us. It is not Peter but Jesus who builds His Church on Peter, on us, with us. Peter only allows Jesus to work in him and through him.
Let us allow God in Jesus to be the builder of our lives, families, communities, and Church. Let us not hesitate to allow God to act in our lives. Let us be receptive to encountering God and so, allow others to also encounter Him in us and through us.