Twenty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time – 27 August 2023
Lectionary Readings: Isa. 22:19-23; Ps. 138:1-3.6.8; Romans 11:33-36; Matt. 16:13-20
Theme: Who am I in Jesus?
Our Gospel reading for today is about the act of faith of Simon at Caesarea Philippi, now the modern Baniyas at one of the sources of the Jordan in the South foothills of Mount Hermon. Mark (6:27-29) and Luke (9:18-20) give a shortened version of the narrative. John records Peter’s words at the end of chapter 6:69.
Recently I watched a movie called “Overcomer” with the Christian themes of perseverance and conversion. The question that runs through the movie is: “Who are (am) you (I)?” The fifteen-year-old girl whose heart is set on cross-country running (in spite of her asthma) wants to know who she is and she is told to read Ephesians chapters 1 and 2.
The following words come up every four weeks in the ‘People’s Companion Breviary’ from which I pray: “When we are in touch with ourselves authentically, we experience God.” (Annice Callahan, RSCJ)
Notice that Jesus asks his disciples first: “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” This is a Messianic Title appearing 70 times in the Synoptics and 12 in John. It refers to Daniel 7:13 f. It is the one Jesus uses of himself.
We go back to our question about ourselves: ‘Who am I?’ Often the answer to that is clouded by what others say or expect. What do others say about Jesus? The disciples tell Jesus. He is recognized as John the Baptist or one of the prophets. Jesus then asked them: ‘Who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter replies “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” he is inspired to say so because of his special calling within a calling: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (v. 17) Neither Mark nor Luke relate these words of Jesus.
The following verses 18 and 19 belong only to Matthew. Verse 20 was taken from Mark’s account (8:30). Luke enlarges on it in 9:21-22.
“The name “Peter” comes from the Greek word for “rock.” Jesus makes him the foundation on which the church is to be built. The word “church” means “assembly” or “society” of believers. The Hebrew equivalent is used in the Old Testament to indicate the chosen people. In applying it to the church, Jesus shows it to be the Messianic community foretold by the prophets.”
“the kingdom of heaven: Peter has the key to the gates of the city of God. This power is exercised through the church. “Binding” and “loosing” are rabbinic terms referring to excommunication, then later to forbidding or allowing something. Not only can Peter admit to the kingdom; he also has power to make authoritative decisions in matters of faith or morals.”
The first reading speaks of the key of the house of David. Key is a sign of authority – from the house of David the Messiah shall come and he hands the authority over to Peter and the disciples.
Why Peter or any of us? The second reading tells us that no-one knows the mind of God!
For Reflection and Discussion: Read: parts or all of Ephesians 1 and 2. Where do you see yourself? Who is Jesus for you? Do you notice that when you answer the one, you get the clue to the other?
Bibliography: “People’s Companion to the Breviary” Carmelites, Indiapolis (1997); www.biblegateway.com – RSVCE
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Bernadette Teresa Chellew, KZN, South Africa. Bat Kol Alumna 2008