In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say I am.” And then he asks them what my friend Fr. Dan Griffith suggested in his homily this morning is the most important question we can ask ourselves: “Who do you say I am.”
Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.”
Here is what Pope Francis said in his Angeles address today about Peter’s reply and Jesus’ reaction thereto:
This Sunday’s Gospel (Mt. 16, 13-20) is the famous passage, which is central in St. Matthew’s account. Simon, in the name of the Twelve, professes his faith in Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus calls Simon “blessed” for this faith, recognizing in him a special gift from the Father, and he says to him: “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church.”
Let us pause for a moment on this point, on the fact that Jesus attributes this new name to Simon: “Peter”, who in Jesus’ language is pronounced “Kefa”, a word that means “rock”. In the Bible, this name, this word “rock” is referred to God. Jesus attributes it to Simon not for his quality or for his human merits, but for his genuine and firm faith, which comes from above.
Jesus feels a great joy in His heart, because He recognizes in Simon the hand of the Father, the action of the Holy Spirit. He recognizes that God the Father has given to Simon a “trustworthy” faith, in which He, Jesus, can build his Church, that is, His community. That is, all of us, all of us. Jesus has in mind to give life to “His” Church, a people no longer founded on ancestry but rather on faith, namely a relationship with Himself, a relationship of love and of trust. Our relationship with Jesus builds the Church. And so to start his Church, Jesus needs to find in the disciples a solid faith, “trustworthy.” It is this that He must verify at this point of His journey. And that is why He asks the question.
The Lord has in mind the image of constructing, the image of the community as an edifice. That is why, when he hears Simon’s sincere profession of faith, he calls him “rock”, the intention of building his Church upon this faith is manifested.
Brothers and sisters, that which has occurred in a unique way to Saint Peter, also takes place in every Christian that develops a sincere faith in Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God. Today’s Gospel challenges each and every one of us. How is your faith? Each one must answer in their heart. How is your faith? What does the Lord find in our hearts? A steadfast heart like a rock or a sand-like heart, that is, doubtful, wary, incredulous? It would do us well today to think about this.
If the Lord finds in our hearts a faith, I do not say perfect, but sincere, genuine, then He also sees in us the living stones with which he can build his community. Of this community, the fundamental rock is Christ, the only cornerstone. On his part, Peter is a rock, as a visible foundation of the unity of the Church; but each baptized person is called to offer to Jesus their own faith, poor but sincere, so that He can continue to build his Church, today, in every part of the world.
Even today, “the people” believe Jesus to be a great prophet, a master of wisdom, a model of justice…And today Jesus asks his disciples, that is us, all of us: “But you, who do you say that I am?” What will we respond? Let us think about this. But above all let us pray to God the Father, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary; let us pray that He may give us the grace to respond, with a sincere heart: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
This is a confession of faith, this is the Creed. Let us all repeat this three times together: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”