Browsing Homilies

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Is 22:19-23 | Ps 138 | Rom 11:33-36 | Mt 16:13-20

Jesus is curious to know how the disciples interpret his life and mission and questions them about how they view his identity. His curiosity becomes a birthplace of heavenly grace upon the disciples. The questions that come from the mouth of Jesus are not to be passed over or lost in translation. The questions that come from Jesus’ mouth are, indeed, divine.

After posing this question to the disciples: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Peter, ultimately, responds: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” This back-and-forth with his disciples becomes an open space for Jesus to offer Peter what is least expected. He offers him the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Upon Peter’s response, a new community is being formed, a new place where the integrity of Jesus’ identity will be known, preserved, and celebrate. Peter becomes a doorway to the possibility that Jesus’ divine mission will never end here on earth. The words of Peter will be etched in the hearts of believers for all eternity.

This question-and-answer period modeled by Jesus and the disciples doesn’t end in Matthew’s gospel. This dialogue is for every believer under heaven. Jesus is curious about our response as well. His curiosity is full of grace. He desires us as we learn to desire him. He wants the best for us in our pain, in our loneliness, in our ill-health, and in our aging. He wants us to be just as curious about him as he is about us. He desires an open space in our hearts so we may interpret his dying and rising. He wants us all to find within our hearts the place where we really need him. For our response to his divine questions doesn’t come from earthly power or our place of leadership in the world. Our response, if we are truthful, flows from our humility, our sure need for the grace of his mercy and forgiveness.

The questions of Jesus form a place of encounter within our hearts. Only with authentic hearts and faithful lives do we respond to such divine questions. Only when we face loss and adversity do we turn to the living God as we ache for salvation. The real truth of our lives doesn’t come from memorizing a formula of Jesus’ identity; it comes from our willingness to be broken open enough to find God as our refuge, our healer, and our redeemer. Our relationship with Jesus Christ then becomes sacred communion. This is how the Church is built, from the vulnerability of the human condition in need of the mercy of God.

Peter is also the person who teaches us about God’s mercy. Peter responds to Jesus’ question with sheer conviction. However, we also know from the gospels that Peter doesn’t always find such inner conviction, for he is the one who also denies Jesus three times. Peter becomes a vessel of profound humanity, of sin and redemption. He models for each of us that we need to constantly come before the curiosity of Jesus to offer our truth and longing for new life. From this truth, God will offer us the love we wait for, the hope we long for in the dying and rising of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Upon such a rock, we will all find eternal life beginning here on earth.


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