Sunday reflection by Very Reverend Stephen E. Salocks, Rector of Saint John's Seminary - August 23, 2020
On the Twenty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time, we hear Jesus ask his disciples what others are saying about him. After listening to various rumors about his identity, Jesus asks them directly, “Who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter, who was so lacking in confidence and so fearful just two weeks ago, now proclaims that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus’ question to Peter and the other disciples is one that all disciples need to hear and answer, not just once but repeatedly as we strive to follow our Lord.
The Gospel passage helps us understand that neither Peter nor we come to deeper faith, insight, and confession apart from God's grace. It is always going to be with the grace of God that we respond to the question – not just of who Jesus was but who he is. It was not Peter’s wisdom or authority that allowed him to make his confession; it was what God had revealed to him. On the basis of God’s grace and Peter’s confession of faith, Jesus entrusted Peter with the keys of the kingdom of heaven (an image mentioned by the prophet Isaiah 22:15-25 in today’s first reading) and the mission to proclaim to sinners the love and forgiveness of God.
Building his Church on the rock of Peter’s faith and that of the Apostles, Jesus continues to pose the question to us. Our response will never be final, and, hopefully, it will always be growing in knowledge and depth of faith. Next week’s Gospel will show us just how important it is to let our knowledge and faith continue to grow. Today we pray that we will have the resolve Peter showed to hear the Lord’s call to discipleship, his determination to cooperate in the building up of Christ’s Church, and his perseverance to proclaim Christ’s presence in every moment, place, and relationship God gives us.