FEB. 22. LENT. CHAIR OF PETER. MT. 16. 13-19.
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So, I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’
At the heart of this reading is the need for Christ’s followers to have Faith in him as “The Son of God”; - as without this they will lack the strength and ability to follow or understand his teachings; - given the central requirement for self-denial and sacrifice; - which Christ would soon bear witness to on Calvary.
Many of his “followers” to this point were there because of the multitude of miracles Christ had performed, or their being one of the thousands who had been fed on the mountainside, or because they were expecting a new earthly “kingdom” to be established; - which they had been invited to be a part of.
The time had come for Christ to identify those who were following him because of the belief that he had come from God, and was God; - a number that would be very small indeed; - given the majority of his current “followers” were looking forward to, an earthly “Kingdom!”
Peter had clearly formed the view at this point that Christ was “The Son of God”, and the time had come for him to proclaim this belief when asked to do so; - but Christ then went on to make an important point when he said: “‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven.”
One does not obtain Faith as a result of one’s own efforts, but rather it is a “gift” from “Our Father in Heaven”, a gift we have to nurture and care for! We often overlook this truth as it is easy to credit ourselves with what we believe, but this is a mistake. It flows from hearing about Christ, and then turning our hearts to God, and seeking enlightenment from above; - a subtle and hidden process we are often not fully conscious of.
This process, of turning to God, is called “Prayer” and it needs to continue for the duration of our time on earth, as our Faith needs to deepen and grow. It is made evident at subsequent events in Peter’s life that, at the time of this proclamation, his Faith was still weak; - a situation we can all identify with; - but via Prayer, we know from experience, God will come to our aid.
And once we acknowledge and believe in God, we are then able to access the multitude of gifts and teachings Christ left us in his Church, that he founded on Peter; - gifts that strengthen our Faith and Prayer; - to the point where we are able to enter into an intimate and loving relationship with God as a result of Sanctifying Grace, which Christ himself pointed out:
“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word and my Father will love him,
and we will come to him, and make our home in him!”