August 27, 2017
Twenty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A
The Gospel we’ve heard today is a very important passage, which unfolds for us numerous exegetical, Christological and ecclesial insights…
For a moment, let us leave these areas, and concentrate on the person of Peter, and on what happens to him in this text.
It all starts with Jesus’ question, which asks the disciples about His real identity; it’s a question that runs through the entire Gospel of Matthew.
Peter instinctively responds to the question, and the Gospel makes it clear that he replies without much reflection on it, as prompted by an impulse of the heart.
In fact, Jesus can say that Peter’s words do not come from Peter himself: “neither flesh nor blood” revealed this to him, but His Heavenly Father (Mt. 16:17). And precisely because Peter opened himself to a revelation from the Father, Jesus declares him “blessed”.
“Reveal” is a term that speaks of relationship and trust, choice and encounter: one does not reveal something important except to one’s friends. The prophet Amos, for example, says that the Lord does nothing without revealing His plan to His friends, that is to the prophets (Am 3:7).
God, however, chooses those to whom He will reveal himself, to whom He will give himself. And usually He does not do it with those who are particularly wise or important: Jesus himself was amazed, a few chapters earlier (Mt. 11:25), at the fact that the Father reveals the mysteries of His Kingdom to the little and simple ones.
Today, this revelation concerns Peter: he is the little one to whom the Father discloses something important and new, that no human wisdom can know. The rest, the people, knew at the very least that Jesus was a special person (Mt. 16:14), but only Peter says that He is the Son of God.
Here his faith journey takes a turn, a new beginning, like any spiritual journey knows moments when intuition becomes deeper and clearer.
But this is not enough.
Peter will pass his entire life seeking to understand what he proclaimed today, to go deeper into the mystery of the Son of God. He will lose Him and again find Him, and time and again the Lord will bring him ideally here, to Caesarea Philippi, to again receive there the revelation of the Lord.
Peter does not fully understand, at that moment, the meaning of what he just said: he has in mind a powerful Messiah, who has come to establish the reign of God with power, destroying enemies. Jesus’ life will contradict him, and he will have to admit to not understanding anything. But the revelation of God will not fail, because He never gives in vain.
Peter will be able to preserve this revelation only if he is able to return to being little, if he will allow himself to be born from the Father. When he will only trust himself, when he will remain in the realm “of flesh and blood”, then he will lose the sense of this revelation and his very self.
But if he will remain little, he will be blessed, as blessed are the little ones of whom Jesus speaks in His first sermon on the mount (Mt. 5): he will experience that the Kingdom of God is grace and mercy, and the first to whom the Lord will have to use mercy will be precisely Peter.
Only then will he become trustworthy, and on this man who has received the Word of the Father, who will have experienced mercy in his own flesh, will Jesus be able to found His Church, as on a rock.
He will be able to bind and loose, that is, he will be able, in turn, to lead men to receive the same revelation of the Father that changed his life.
Therefore, the Church will be a community of persons born of flesh and blood, but later born of the Spirit, united by the same littleness, by the same revelation, by the same blessedness.