Gospel Reading: Mt 16:13-23
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so 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. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
Reflections: You are the Messiah
Peter’s confession of Jesus at Caesarea Philippi forms the culmination of Jesus’ public ministry in Galilee. Because people saw his authority in both his teachings and his mighty acts, they realized that a prophet had arisen among them, in the line of John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah. But when Jesus asks the Twelve who they think he is, Simon Peter, in their name, confesses, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew gives us this most ample reply of Peter, together with his special material: the giving of the power of the keys.
This confession is likewise the starting point of the second part of Jesus’ ministry: his journey to Jerusalem where he will suffer greatly from the hands of religious and political authorities. This will also define what kind of “Messiah” and “Son of God” he is. He will not be a glorious Messiah – what was expected of the son of David. He will be a suffering one – something unheard of. And as “Son of God,” he will be faithful to the will of the heavenly Father to the point of death, the death of a lonely man feeling the absence of God. Seeing him die thus, the centurion will proclaim, “Truly, this was the Son of God!” (Mt 27:54).
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