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Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

Mt. 16: 13-21

We who are cradle Catholics have always believed that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God and Saviour of the world. When Jesus first called His Apostles to follow Him they could not say this of Him. They had a religious background, of course, but it was not the same as ours. For centuries there had lived in the hearts and minds of the Jewish people the hope that God would send a Messiah for Israel. There was little or no consensus as to how this would happen.

Then one day the Apostles met Jesus and He captivated their hearts. They saw and felt something in Him, that they had never experienced in another person. Finally, there came the day, recorded in our Gospel reading, when Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This was a great historical moment.

What did this mean to the Apostles? It was a statement about God. They had always believed in the God of Creation, the God who reigns majestically in Heaven. But in Jesus they encountered something brand new. At first they met Him as a Man, the best and the most fascinating Man they had ever known. Then as they lived with Him, observed Him and listened to Him, they began to sense and see that He was more than just a mortal man like themselves.

Then came the historical moment when Jesus asked, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” The people who had not lived with Jesus never really knew. They thought He was some great prophet, but nothing more. When Jesus asked the Apostles it was Peter who confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Although the Apostles had made their observations of who they thought Jesus was, this confession of Peter was not of their making. We know this from Jesus’ reply, “It is not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but My Father in Heaven.” From that moment the thought that Jesus was the Son of the Living God took shape in their minds until it became a deep conviction.

They began to spread out across the Roman Empire and deliver a thrilling message, 'We have met God in the Person of Jesus Christ. We have seen Him with our eyes. We have heard Him with our ears. We have touched Him with our hands. We proclaim to you the Good News that Jesus is God, the Eternal God who has come to us and has made Himself known through the life of a man.'

What else did the Apostles see in Jesus? They saw in Him One Who was spiritually superior to them and everyone they had ever known. There was a quality in His Life that their lives did not possess. Out of that awareness they were morally challenged to lead better lives. We have an example of this when Peter, walking on the lake, relied more on self than on Jesus and after nearly drowning, had to fall on his knees and say, “Leave me, Lord. I am a sinful man.” From now on they felt comfortable in calling Him, Lord, Master and Teacher. He had a claim on them which no one can rightly have but God, and that is how they saw Him - God was in that Man. Believing this they freely submitted their lives to His control.

If God had come to them in the life of a Man, this meant that divinity and humanity were not as far apart as they had always supposed. Most people think that there is a great divide. In one sense this is very true but, in another, God is closer to us than we can ever imagine. No doubt, Peter and the other Apostles thought the same way, until they met Jesus. They saw a strange and beautiful thing - divinity and humanity merging and perfectly blending in one life. From that moment a very daring thought came to their minds. This same God who lived in Jesus could also live in them. That was an astounding truth. God was no longer far away. He was not just a God in Heaven, He was near at hand; in fact He was in them, living in them.

What does all this mean for us? We can thank our Heavenly Father for revealing the truth to us about His Son, and for dispelling any worries or fears we may have in following Christ. The fact that we have this knowledge challenges us to remain close to Jesus as did His first followers. Whatever He teaches us about what we are to believe, and how we are to conduct our lives, will be what we will believe and aim to do.

Lord Jesus, help us to live in ways that mean we shall not only be close to You in this life, but we can hope to live with You in Heaven in the next life.

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