Friday - Lent Time
1) Opening prayer
you have given us the witnessing of the apostles
as the firm rock on which we can rely.
Where Peter is, there is the Church.
But we see today that the bark of Peter is rocked;
we are often like capricious children
unused to our newfound freedom.
Make us use this freedom responsibly
and do not allow us to lose our composure.
Reassure us that you are always with us
and keep us optimistic about the future,
for it is your future
and you are our rock for ever.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 16, 13-19
When Jesus came to the region of
Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, 'Who do people say the
Son of man is?' And they said, 'Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and
others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.' 'But you,' he said, 'who do you say I
am?' Then Simon Peter spoke up and said, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the
living God.' Jesus replied, 'Simon son of Jonah, you are a blessed man! Because
it was no human agency that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I
now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my community. And
the gates of the underworld can never overpower it. I will give you the keys of
the kingdom of Heaven: whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven;
whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.'
Today’s Gospel presents us three points: the opinion of the people concerning
Jesus (Mt 16, 13-14), the opinion of Peter regarding Jesus (Mt 16, 15-16) and
the response of Jesus to Peter (Mt 16, 17-19).
Matthew 16, 13-14: The opinion of the people regarding Jesus. Jesus asks
for the opinion of the people regarding his person. The responses are diverse:
John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Not one of them
gives the right answer. Today, also, the opinion of the people regarding Jesus
is very varied.
Matthew 16, 15-16: The opinion of Peter regarding Jesus. Immediately, he
asks the opinion of the disciples. Peter becomes the spokesperson and says: “You
are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” The response is not new. Before,
the disciples had already said the same thing (Mt 14, 33). In the Gospel of
John, the same profession of faith is made by Martha (Jn 11, 27). It means that
in Jesus the prophecies of the Old Testament are fulfilled.
Matthew 16, 17-19: The response of Jesus to Peter. The responses come
from several places: “Blessed are you, Simon. Jesus proclaims Peter
“Blessed!” because he had received the revelation from the Father. Here, also,
the response of Jesus is not new. Previously, he had praised the Father for
having revealed the Son to little ones and not to the wise (Mt 11, 25-27) and
had made the same proclamation of blessed to the disciples because they were
seeing and hearing things that before nobody knew (Mt 13, 16).
- Peter is Rock (Pietra). Peter has to be Rock, that is, should
be the stable foundation for the Church in such a way that it can resist
against the gates of hell. With these words of Jesus, Matthew encourages the
communities which were persecuted by Syria and Palestine. Even if weak and
persecuted, the communities have a stable foundation, guaranteed by the words
of Jesus. The rock as the basis of faith reminds the people the words of God to
the People in exile: “Listen to me, you who pursue saving justice, you who seek
Yahweh. Consider the rock from which you were hewn, the quarry from which you
were dug. Consider Abraham your father and Sarah who gave you birth. When I
called him he was the only one but I blessed him and made him numerous. (Is 51,
1-2). It indicates a new beginning.
- Peter, Rock. Jesus gives a name to Simon and calls him Rock (Peter). In
two ways, Peter and Rock (Pietra), in two ways: he is rock-foundation, (Mt
16, 18) and is rock (pietra) a stumbling obstacle, (Mt 16, 23). In our
Catholic Church we insist very much on Peter – rock-foundation and we forget
Peter- stumbling rock or obstacle. On the one hand Peter was weak in his faith,
doubtful, and tries to deviate or withdraw Jesus, he was afraid in the garden,
he fell asleep and fled, he did not understood what Jesus was saying. On the
other side, he was like the little ones whom Jesus called Blessed. Being one of
the twelve, he became their spokesman. Later, after the death and resurrection
of Jesus, his image grew and he became a symbol of the Community. Peter is firm
in faith not because of his own merits, but because Jesus prays for him, in
order that his faith would not fail (Lk 22, 31-34).
- Church, Assembly. The word Church, in Greek eklésia, appears 105 times in the New Testament, almost exclusively in the Acts
of the Apostles and in the Epistles. In the Gospels it appears three times,
only in Matthew. The word literally means “convoked” or “chosen”. It indicates
the people who gather together, convoked by the Word of God and, who try to
live the message of the Kingdom which Jesus brings. The Church or the community
is not the Kingdom, but it is an instrument and a sign or indication of the
Kingdom. The Kingdom is greater. In the Church, in the community, it should
appear in the eyes of all what happens when a human group allows God to reign
and allows him to take possession of our life.
- The keys of the Kingdom. Peter receives the keys of the Kingdom. This
same power of uniting or binding and of separating or loosening is also given
to the communities (Mt 18, 18) and to the other disciples (Jn 20, 23). One of
the points in which the Gospel of Matthew insists the most is reconciliation
and pardon or forgiveness. It is one of the more important tasks of the
coordinators of the communities. Imitating Peter, they should bind and loose,
that is, do in such a way that there be reconciliation, reciprocal acceptance,
construction of the fraternal spirit.
4) Personal questions
Which are the opinions in our community regarding Jesus? These differences in
the way of living and of expressing faith, do they enrich the community or do
they make the journey and communion more difficult? Why?
Who is Jesus for me? Who am I for Jesus?
5) Concluding Prayer
Turn your ear to me, make haste.
Be for me a rock-fastness,
a fortified citadel to save me.
You are my rock, my rampart;
true to your name, lead me and
guide me! (Ps 31,2-3)