Deacon Newton’s Homily — 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the Gospel today Jesus wanted to know who people thought he was. They in general believed him to be a prophet. When he asked his disciples who they thought he was, Peter said that he was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. But did you notice that all the other disciples were silent. Why was that? What did they truly believe?

When Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?” he is challenging his disciples, both then and now, to look deeper than what you see on the surface. You can describe him as a carpenter, a teacher, a practicing Jew. They describe what things he does, which also describes many other people. But who do you say he is? We must get to know him deeply and intimately so that we can answer the question without hesitation like Peter.

Let’s view this through the mirror. If you asked someone who you are, they would most likely answer based on your title, degree, or trade. They would say you are a lawyer, teacher, or plumber, etc. Now try to answer that question about yourself. Who are you? If it is hard for you to answer it, how hard would it be for others to answer it?

It actually doesn’t matter what titles we attain in life. What matters is how we live our lives. Are we caring, loving human beings? Are we self-centered or is our goal the good of others? Did a person become a doctor for prestige and money, or to truly serve others to heal their ills even if they never make any money? If our goal is service to others, for their intrinsic good, that tells a story about who we actually are. Hopefully this helps us to understand Jesus’ question of who do you say that he is.

In today’s Gospel Jesus gave the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven to Peter, not because Peter is all knowing and would get everything right, but because the Rock, the foundation of the Church is to be built on the fundamental belief that Jesus though man was also the Son of God. All that he taught us is the foundation by which we live our lives.

These rules of life are to be upheld, guarded, protected, taught and lived by all those baptized in the faith and overseen through the Chair of Peter. These all come together providing stability in the practices of our faith but they also are meant to provide the foundation for our personal spiritual stability.

The question still remains, who are we? We are Christians. We are Disciples of Christ. We live our lives as Jesus taught us. Or do we? We must know Jesus for this to be true. We must be able to answer the question, who is Jesus based on our intimate personal relationship with him? In 1 John 2:3-6 it states: “The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep his commandments. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him. This is the way we may know that we are in union with him: whoever claims to abide in him ought to live [just] as he lived.” Wow, that says a lot.

When we state something emphatically about our faith, we may be asked under whose authority we are basing our claims. When we answer through the teachings of Jesus Christ we are saying that it is with the authority of God. Our faith is based on God’s direct commands to us, on the teachings of Jesus, but most importantly on how he lived his life. It is based on his life filled examples to us.

If we believe Jesus is the Word of God then this all makes sense. But how seriously do we actually live what we say we believe. We must be honest with ourselves. But we can easily fool ourselves. This is where some may state scripture and how they interpret it. Some may say since God is Love anything that seems unfair to them must not be God’s intent. The Christian faith is not based on what we want it to be. We do not set the rules.

In 2 Peter 1:20-21 it states: “Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation, for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the Holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God.”

Discussion of scripture is healthy to allow the Holy Spirit to enlighten all of us, but we must adhere to the wisdom of Jesus, to God incarnate, that he gave the keys to the kingdom of heaven to the Chair of Peter. Peter got Jesus’ question about who he was correct because God inspired him. Jesus said to Peter: “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” The authority of Church governance was given to Peter and his successors. The Church is built on this inspired statement of Peter that Jesus is the Son of God.

Living our lives based on God’s word is not easy and may not fit into how we would prefer to live our lives. It is not about our will but the will of God. We must keep the faith that God knows best and that the only road to heaven is through the way of life, Jesus Christ. Do we see Jesus living through us when we look in the mirror?

Let’s go back to the question: Who is Jesus? If you believe he is God, are you truly taking his Word and the direction from the Chair of Peter seriously? Are you living your life based on how you want the scriptures to fit your personal narrative? We need to honestly ask ourselves the question: Whose will are we living, God’s or our own?

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