Monday, September 01, 2008

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mt 16:21-27

Jesus began to show his disciplesthat he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatlyfrom the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him,“God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He turned and said to Peter,“Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”Then Jesus said to his disciples,“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.What profit would there be for one to gain the whole worldand forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory,and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”

The import of yesterday’s Gospel is the fact that Peter had not prayed long and deeply enough to truly know the full Persona of Jesus of Nazareth. He was not yet able to see the totally relational dimension of Christ. His very Person is Gift to the point of not being really revealed until His death on the Cross for love of us.

Said differently, Peter had not prayed enough – yet – to become Christ and therefore to know Him. Or, even better, Peter had not worked hard enough yet to pray with sufficient suffering to become Christ and therefore know that without the Cross, there is no Christ.

Hence, today’s gospel is the sequence to Matt. 16, 16: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Simon had gone through a conversion of his whole self such that he come to experience that this Jesus of Nazareth is Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God, hence, God. He came to experience the identity of his own person with that of Christ by the event of prayer. Joseph Ratzinger had launched the Christological-anthropological thesis that “I” of Jesus Christ reveals itself to be prayer. He does this in Luke 6, 12, Luke 9, 18 and Luke 9, 28. In each case, Ratzinger offers the exegesis that Jesus reveals who He is when He prays. He founds the Church in His prayer to the Father (6, 12). Simon becomes Peter as Christ is “Rock” (“Cornerstone” Acts 4, 11) and is able to say experientially, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” because of his praying with Christ (9, 18) and being drawn by the Father (Jn. 6, 44). Finally, Christ gives off stunning, radiating light “as He prayed” on the mountain with the three (9, 28).

The import of the lesson of today’s Gospel is that Peter’s conversion was not complete. He was not completely “Peter” such as to know Christ as pure Cornerstone
[1] as completely God. There had to be more and deeper conversions to prayer before Peter would come to understand that the very meaning of Jesus Christ as fully God-man is the Cross where He lives out Who He is as pure relation to the Father.

John Paul II wrote in “Novo Millennio Ineunte #20 (with Joseph Ratzinger at his side):

“20. How had Peter come to this faith? And what is asked of us, if we wish to follow in his footsteps with ever greater conviction? Matthew gives us an enlightening insight in the words with which Jesus accepts Peter's confession: "Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven" (16:17). The expression "flesh and blood" is a reference to man and the common way of understanding things. In the case of Jesus, this common way is not enough. A grace of "revelation" is needed, which comes from the Father (cf. ibid.). Luke gives us an indication which points in the same direction when he notes that this dialogue with the disciples took place when Jesus "was praying alone" (Lk 9:18). Both indications converge to make it clear that we cannot come to the fullness of contemplation of the Lord's face by our own efforts alone, but by allowing grace to take us by the hand. Only the experience of silence and prayer offers the proper setting for the growth and development of a true, faithful and consistent knowledge of that mystery which finds its culminating expression in the solemn proclamation by the Evangelist Saint John: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father" (1:14).

The Two Texts:

- Mt 16:13-20

"Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi andhe asked his disciples,“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply,“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 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. 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.” Then he strictly ordered his disciplesto tell no one that he was the Christ. “

- Luke 9, 18-20:

“And it came to pass as he was praying in private, that his disciples also were with him, and he asked them, saying, ‘who do the crowds say that I am? ‘ And they answered and said, ‘John the Baptist; and others, Elias; and others, that one of the ancient prophets has risen again.’
And he said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am/’ Simon Peter answered and said, ‘The Christ of God.’”

Note: As Augustine prayed and went through his first conversion, there was also the need for a second [This obtains for St. Thomas the Apostle also]. This second conversion consisted in giving up his desire for the peace and quiet necessary for the study of the Scripture and development of theology. He was ordained priest and bishop whereupon he was totally available for pastoral service. Yet, in the drumbeat of continual disturbance and distraction "for" the others, he produced, perhaps, his best theological work. Benedict XVI seems to sense that the same vocation has fallen to him. Notice the imminent establishment of an institute for the study of the intellectual corpus of Ratzinger-Benedict at a moment when he is in the heat of intellectual development and intense pastoral service. We must learn this way of God. Intellectual light develops precisely in the heat of responding generously to what God is asking of us in the quotidian "now."

[1] Isaiah 28, 16: Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed.

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