“Every now and then he quizzes his disciples to see how much they are taking in, to see how well they have understood him, and he does not hide his displeasure at their consistently low scores… Small wonder, then, that they are a little anxious when Jesus gathers them around and asks an entirely different kind of question – not one about anything he has said, but one about who he is.”
Barbara Brown Taylor – (The Seeds of Heaven: Sermons on the Gospel of Matthew) pp. 70-71
You can find the readings for the twenty-first Sunday in ordinary time cycle A here.
Catholics need to be converted to giving the Scriptures some actual authority in their lives… I would sadly say that most Catholics would rather hear quotes from saints, Popes, and bishops, the current news, or funny stories, if they are to pay attention… I can see Catholics glaze over because they have never read the New Testament, much less studied it, or been guided by it.
– Richard Rohr
We are on a faith journey, whether we know it or not. With each step on that journey we are to grow in knowledge and develop maturity. Fr. Richard Rohr has issued a challenge to be converted and learn to take guidance from scripture. The faith we learned as a child must being steadily replaced by a faith that we learn as an adult.
We are to be like the disciples traveling along with Jesus. There will be times when new understandings are revealed to us. Peter’s old understandings, based upon the faith he learned as a child, was being replaced with each new revelation from the teaching of Jesus. This led to Peter’s confession, a new name and a new leadership role. This is what is expected from us also.
You are always a student, never a master. You have to keep moving forward.
– Conrad Hall
In the Gospel (the whole Bible actually) there is always a parallel between the words on the page and the life of the writers. The subtext to the growth of the faith of Peter and the disciples is the growth of faith in the Matthean community. Scholars believe that the writers of Matthew’s Gospel experienced suffering and rejection at the hands of members of the synagogue. They saw their rejection and suffering akin to the suffering seen in the OT Son of Man (Daniel) and prophet Jeremiah, who was roundly rejected by his community. This translated into Jesus being identified as the Son of Man with reference to the prophet Jeremiah. Ultimately this tied closely with the rejection and suffering predicted for the Messiah.
It is a necessity to understand the context of the Gospel reading if we are going to have any meaningful growth in our faith. With each of these homilies there is some level of context provided. It is not a complete or comprehensive context, but it is solidly based on modern scholarship.
This is your opportunity to be like Peter and grow in your faith, understanding and maturity. Peter provides a model of continuous growth in faith. As a Jew, Peter had a host of rules and rituals. He understood culturally that the Messiah was a military leader and king of the people. The more time Peter spent listening to the words of Jesus his understanding changed. Peter grew in faith and put aside those old notions. He was rewarded for growing in faith and maturity.
Today, we have a host of rules and rituals. We have been raised with a cultural understanding of who Jesus is. We have statues and holy cards to remind us of the cultural Jesus we grew up with. We also have have the teachings of Jesus. The more time we spend with the scriptures the more our understanding of Jesus will change. We will be rewarded if we put aside those old notions of Jesus and grow in faith and maturity.
To see the Bible as a human product does not in any way deny the reality of God.
– Marcus Borg
If you take one thing away from this homily it should be to read the Bible. Not just read it but understand it and incorporate the teachings of Jesus into our lives.
There is, however, a danger of taking the words of the Gospels out of context. If we do we can use the words of the Bible to serve our own purposes. Read the Gospels and learn the proper context. Never quote scripture unless you understand the context. Don’t rely on your parish priest to explain the Gospels. We have a responsibility to follow Jesus and we cannot shirk our responsibility to understand His teachings.
It will be harder for some. If your image of Jesus is sacrosanct it will be very hard. I will pray for you, and I wish you all the best on this journey of faith.