A Homily on the 21st Sunday in the ordinary time, year A
Sunday, August 27, 2023.
Readings: Matt 16:13-20; Isaiah 22:19-23; Romans11:33-36
By Fr. Augustine Agwulonu, OP.
“WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM?”
This is one of the very important questions, which the Lord Jesus asks his disciples according to today’s Gospel. It is obvious that we already know the answer to this question. And there are two reasons that we know the right answer.
The first is that St. Peter answers this question correctly. According to the Gospel passage, Simon Peter says: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Consequently, the Lord says: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.” In fact, the Lord does not stop at that, but he continues saying: “And 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.” This statement of our Lord Jesus Christ to Peter highlights and underscores the fact that St. Peter has answered the question excellently well.
The second reason that we know the answer to our Lord’s question today concerning his true identity is because the church has reflected so much and has provided deep and deeper insights into the true identity of our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.
Now, however, the Lord’s question does not cease to strike deep and deeper in me and in us whenever we read or hear it proclaimed in the Gospel. We all can testify to the continuous momentum of God’s word whenever we read it. And so, let us now reflect on two points about the Lord’s question. The first concerns the formulation of the question. And the second relates to the source of the correct answer, which St. Peter gives.
- The Lord asks, “who do you SAY that I am?” The emphasis here is on the word “SAY.” The question is not exclusively or simply about the knowledge of who Jesus is. But the primary focus here is on the SAYING, that means, on the DECLARATION, on the PROCLAMATION, or on the CONFESSION of the truth about the Divine Nature of our Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, the question especially cares about the actualization and the practical effect of recognizing Jesus as the Christ. For instance, St. Paul says in Rom 10:9 that: “if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” And so, by asking his disciples who they SAY he is, the Lord moves them; the Lord Jesus encourages them to speak boldly in CONFESSION of his true relationship with God as his Father.
- The second point concerns the source of the answer to the Lord’s question to his disciples. As we have read, the Lord says to Simon: “For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” The words of Jesus in this text reminds me of the Church’s declaration in the “Dogmatic constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, which say: “In His goodness and wisdom God chose to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will (Eph 1:9) …” In today’s 2nd reading, St. Paul marvels at the treasure of God’s sublime wisdom and knowledge. He exclaims: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!” The question, which this Scripture text raises is, how may we share in God’s riches of wisdom and knowledge? I have chosen two words to enable us answer this question. They are FAITH and CONFESSION.
CONCERNING FAITH: When we talk about faith, we mean belief in Jesus Christ. It is faith in the Christ, the Son of the living God, as we read from Matthew’s Gospel today. Faith is that positive response, which we make to the Word of God that we read and meditate upon. This faith moves us to obedience and love. Faith gives life. In other words, we can talk about faith as “the life-giving vision, or knowledge of God.” Faith is light and faith leads us to gain wisdom.
ON CONFESSION: Like St. Peter, in today’s Gospel, God reveals his Son Jesus Christ to us so that we might believe in him. The Lord Jesus sends the Holy Spirit upon his disciples to enable them to confess him to the hearing of the peoples of the world. The Holy Spirit has given us the power to confess Jesus as Lord, to declare him as the Christ, and to proclaim him as the Son of the living God. How blessed are we to receive this calling!
Now, let me conclude this reflection by asking for the intercession of St. Monica, the mother of Saint Augustine, who is my patron. The 27th August is her memorial. We recall that she was a woman of deep faith and fervent prayer. She prayed ceaselessly for her son, who later found peace and rest for his soul in God. Through her intercession, may we experience true conversion and find rest in God for our restless souls! Amen!