21st SUNDAY ORDINARY TIME A
To listen to the recorded homily at the Australian Catholic Radio Online, pls click:
Since time immemorial humanity has been longing for messiahs in different genre in an attempt to save man from many forms of unfreedoms. The Greek poet Homer in Odyssey introduced legendary heroes who battled against gods in quest of immortality. The world has witnessed the rise of many sages, prophets and founders of religions who offer the world answers to the questions that belonged to the spiritual realm. There is only one Saviour who offered fullness of life and eternal life: Jesus Christ! But in a world full of superheroes like Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Catwoman, Captain America, etc. who would need a saviour like Jesus Christ?
Caesarea Philippi was a highly paganistic territory being dedicated to the god Pan and it was there that that Jesus put the question “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” The title Son of Man was usually used by Jesus when speaking about himself in reference to the Book of Daniel because it is free from political overtones in the concept of “Messiah”. When Jesus asked the question, it was not meant to check on the polls or a scientific survey but rather he was concerned whether his message was understood by his disciples. The responses were generic, as perceived by the people: as John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. It means that the Jews were uncertain about the nature of his person, hence the confusion about his true mission. This led to the question of Jesus which was directed to the disciples themselves: “But who do you say that I am?” Peter who used to be the spokesperson of the band said “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” We understand from Jesus that it was his Father who revealed such truth to Peter. Being confirmed by his Father in heaven, Jesus proclaimed the supremacy of Peter: “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church.” Peter was also empowered with heavenly powers when Jesus gave him the keys of the Kingdom of heaven.
But why Peter when the gospels relate how weak he was, compulsive, coward and a traitor? Precisely because the power entrusted to him being the first pope of the Church and consequently to all the popes who followed after him was not based on human wisdom. If ever Peter takes a psychological exams today, he will definitely not get flying colors, in fact in all his weaknesses he can never be a CEO of a company in the 21st century. Yet the power of the spiritual leaders in the Church is not about of this world. They are not even supermen but weak human beings empowered by God to do the task of continuing the work of Christ.
With the new faces of paganism besetting the world, the same question is being asked of today: Is Christ still relevant in a world which continues to experience slaveries of different forms? If He is, what does He offer to a world in desperate need of salvation? How does the Catholic Church differ from other agencies or religions that offer salvation? The task of the Church is so immense most especially in the field of evangelization. Yet she continues to be the voice in a world that longs for peace, justice and love.
As disciples of Jesus, we hear him questioning us: “Who do you say that I am?” Yes we believe in Him as the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one. Yet, if he asks us to carry our cross and leads us to be crucified in Him, can we still follow Him? Or are we like Peter who wanted to believe in a Christ without suffering, without the cross? It is so easy to profess our faith in a God who gives us the best of everything but not to a Christ who will crucify us in own cross. In moments when we are hanging in the darkness of pain and suffering, our faith is tested: would we still believe in Christ?