Thursday of the 18th Week in Ordinary Time – Mt 16:13-23
Today’s Gospel recounts for us Peter’s confession of faith. There is a lot that could be said, but we can consider, first, the physical location of the confession, and then two points that can be applied to our lives.
First, the physical backdrop for the confession is interesting. Historians tell us that the villages of Caesarea Philippi had a long and storied religious history. It had been a center for the worship of Baal, there was a cave where the Greek god Pan had (supposedly) been born, and Phillip the Tetrarch, whose territory it was, had built a huge temple in honor of the god Caesar. In other words, the villages had always worshipped something, but they missed the target. In the midst of all these false gods, Peter came to identify the one, true God who was walking in their midst. In our lives, too, and especially amid the current culture, we are assailed with many false gods, and with many misunderstandings about who Christ is. We can ask ourselves the question: who do we say that Christ is?
The conversation contains some important elements for consideration, as Saint John Paul II pointed out. “This conversation between Christ and his disciples,” he said, “is always relevant to the life of the Church and of Christians. At every moment in her history, especially those which are the most decisive, Jesus questions his followers and, after asking them what ‘people’ think of him, he narrows the field and asks them: ‘But who do you say that I am?’” By all accounts, Jesus had done fairly well in the polls: he was taken for John, Elijah, and Jeremiah. Yet, all of those fall short of the reality: people only see the Son of Man as man, and not as the Son of God.
Secondly, this reading should remind us of the need to love the three white things as something proper to our congregation and to missionaries in general: again John Paul the II reminds us that “Missionaries fostered the three great loves that have characterized the Catholic faith of [the] peoples: love of the Eucharist, love of the Mother of the Savior, and love of the Church in the person of the successor of Peter. In these three great loves you will find [the] light, strength and inspiration needed to carry out the huge work of the New Evangelization that lies ahead of you.” We can ask ourselves how well we love these things.
Today, let us pray, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church, to grow in our love for Christ and for the three white things.