August 24, 2014
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
13 When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" 14 They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." 15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 16 Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."
17 Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. 18 And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." 20 Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah.
The gospel from last week described Jesus’ travel to the pagan region of Tyre and Sidon and his encounter with a Canaanite woman. After that encounter, Matthew reports that Jesus returned to the Jewish region and the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Great numbers of people followed him into the mountains where he cured the lame, blind, and those with other afflictions. After the crowd had been with them for three days, Jesus once again told the disciples to give them something to eat. They had only seven loaves and a few fish. Jesus had the crowd recline on the grass and he blessed the bread, and he had the disciples once again distribute the blessed food to the crowd. He then had them collect what was left and this time seven baskets full of leftovers were collected.
The crowd having been dismissed, Jesus and the disciples got into a boat and made their way to the district of Magadan, where he encountered Pharisees and Sadducees who ask him to produce a sign from heaven. Jesus left them without responding to their request. When they got to the other side of the sea, Jesus told the disciples to be aware of the leaven of the Sadducees and Pharisees. Because the disciples had forgotten to bring bread for the trip, they though Jesus was talking about the leaven for bread. Jesus meant the leaven of the Sadducees’ and Pharisees’ teaching. In Matthew’s gospel, this leads into the text that is the Gospel for this Sunday.
Mark’s gospel also recounts an occasion when Jesus asks the disciples and Peter the same questions that are posed by Jesus in this text from Matthew. (Mark 8:27-29) In Mark’s account, Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah, but not that he is the “Son of the Living God.” Also Jesus does not comment on Peter’s profession of faith, but he does tell the disciples not to speak to others about what they have heard. Then Jesus speaks to them for the first time of his passion and death. Peter, hearing this for the first time, responds by taking Jesus aside and voicing some objection to what Jesus has been saying. Jesus then tells Peter to “Get behind me Satan, you are not thinking as God does, but as human beings do.” (Mark 8:33b) Mark’s account is very powerful in its own right. The reader needs to be aware of how different Matthew’s account is so that it, too, can speak to us.
Those of other cultures often find the people from the west, especially from the U.S., to be peculiarly independent and individualistic. Mediterranean people are at the other end of the spectrum. They are “other” orientated and do not have a sense of themselves apart from their family and community. Jesus, a man of his day, lived out of his cultural worldview. From that perspective, his question is a natural part of his search to understand who he is.
1. Are you a person who values your independence? Can you name some of the personal sacrifices that you have made to protect or maintain your independence?
2. Have you had experiences where people had grand or low expectations of you because you came from a particular family or part of the country? How did you respond?
3. Do you know people who are more compliant to the desires of others than you are? How does that affect your interacting with them?
4. Have you had a period in your life when you were really searching for your identity or what you wanted to do with your life?
5. When you hear Jesus ask the disciples who people are saying that he is, how do you relate to that question? What feelings does that question invoke in you?
6. How do you think Jesus felt about the responses he received from the disciples?
7. From the response that Jesus gives to Peter in this account, how do you think Jesus felt when Peter said that he was the “Messiah, the son of the living God”?
8. What do you think Peter felt when he heard Jesus say the following: "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
9. How do you think your parents understood Jesus’ words to Peter? How is your understanding of that same statement different today?
10. How is your cultural world different from that of Jesus or even your parents?
11. How then does this gospel text speak to you?
On Wednesday of each week, the Gospel and reflection questions for the upcoming Sunday are posted at the following link. http://il-ritiro.org/gospel-reflections.aspx
You are invited to share your reflection and comments with others at this website.
Reflection questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM.
They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF and Joe Thiel.
They are translated into Spanish by Fernando Alessandrini.
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