St. Peter's Square, Vatican City

St. Peter's Square, Vatican City

The mission of Christ becomes the vocation of Peter

Commentary on the Gospel of Sunday, August 27, 2023.

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Mons. Francesco Follo

(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 08.26.2023).- Commentary on the Gospel of Sunday, August 27, 2023 to recognize Jesus as the Christ and share his friendship and his life.

1) You are the Christ.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks to the Apostles two questions. The first one is: Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Mt 16, 13). They reply that for some He is John the Baptist, for others Elias, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. The second one is “But who do you say that I am?” (Mt 16, 15).
On behalf of the disciples, Peter professes the faith of the Church of all times: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16). From that day on the Church continues to repeat this solemn profession of faith. Even today we are called to let God speak to our hearts as He has spoken to the hearts of the apostles. If we listen to the evangelical words with perfect faith and perfect love, we will understand the true meaning of these words: “Jesus, the Christ, the Word, and the Son of Man and of God”. Then, we will proclaim with profound conviction “Jesus, you are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Id.). We do it with the awareness that Christ is the true “treasure” for which it is worth sacrificing everything, as it was remembered in the liturgy of the XVII Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 30, 2023.
He is the friend who does not abandon us because he is the Emmanuel, God always with us, who knows the most intimate expectations of our heart. Jesus is the “Son of the Living God,” the promised Messiah, came on earth to offer salvation to humanity and to satisfy the thirst for life and love present in the heart of every human being. This thirst is satisfied by the Divine Mercy that is always ready to give itself to those who convert and ask the Church for it.
It should be noted, therefore, that Christ does not address these two questions to the disciples to know one or more opinions about Himself. He does not need to know what men think of Him. With this double question Jesus asks for an act of faith in Him that has as consequence discipleship. “Jesus did not say ‘Know me!’ He said, ‘Follow me!’ We must follow Jesus with our virtues and despite our sins. The important thing is to follow Jesus always. We do not need a study of things but a life of discipleship. It takes an encounter with the Lord, every day, with our victories and weaknesses “(Pope Francis).
Of course, the question of Christ does not arise from a crisis of identity, but offers itself as the way to bring the disciples into His mystery of truth and love. The question of the Messiah is a vocation to follow him. This sequel is not based on an adhesion to a theory, but on the solidity of a presence, which is as firm as a rock.
Christ is the Living Stone, and Peter is chosen as his stone. The two do not exclude each other. Christ, the angular stone, calls Peter to a progressive assimilation, to become more and more disciple and to be the Apostolic Stone because, despite his fragility and his sin, he loves his Lord more than all the others and must confirm them in the fruitful faith that is love.
That is why the Pope is the one who chairs charity, confirms our faith with the ministry of truth and mercy, and uses the keys of the Kingdom to reconcile the people with God and one another. The keys handed over to Peter are the keys of grace, mercy, forgiveness, hope, and joy.
Let us make ours the answer of Peter, who did not answer to Christ’s questions with one theory but with a profession of faith. The problem is not to question God, but to let us be questioned by Him. He is and remains a mystery. Instead, answering to him constitutes the adventure of being men: the adventure of following Him, which is Way, Truth, and Life.
Faith is welcoming Him, following Him, and the communion of love with Him. It is ours and world’s redemption.

2) You are Peter.
At Peter’s confession: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16, 16), Jesus replies “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. “(Mt 16:18).
The profession of faith of Peter, the humble fisherman of Galilee, is the voice of his companions and today indicates to us the divine presence and the place of salvation for every man and woman of the earth. On this “rock” of faith it is built the new human community, reconciled and married to God.
It is true that the Church is built by the Lord. “On this rock I will build my Church’, because the Church is pure gift of God to welcome and save all with all the limits and errors of the wounded and sinful humanity.
It is also true that on the faith of Peter Christ founds his Church with the power to bind and to dissolve, to forgive and to sanctify, and with the mission of evangelizing and announcing the good news to the world. The Church is established on the communion with Peter and in obedience to Peter. It is consoling and comforting to hear today the word of the Lord that seals this design of God: “The powers of hell will not prevail over it.” It gives strength to be able to walk in today’s world without presumption but with the certainty that the Spirit of God leads the Church.
The word Church, in Greek ekklésia, means “convocation”, “assembly” and indicates the people who come together called by the Word of God, and seek to live the message of the Kingdom brought by Christ. The mission of the Church is to implement God’s great plan: to reunite in Christ all humanity as one family.
The mission of Peter and of his successors is to serve the unity of the only Church of God formed by all peoples around the world. Its indispensable ministry is to make sure that it never identifies itself with one nation, or with only one culture, but that it is the Church of all people to make present among men, marked by innumerable divisions and contrasts, the peace of God and the renewing power of his love.
The peculiar mission of the Pope, Bishop of Rome and successor to Peter, is to serve the inner unity that comes from the peace of God, and the unity of those who in Jesus Christ have become brothers and sisters.
United with the Holy Father, we are all called to be missionaries of Christ and witnesses of His love. The key that has been given to us is that of the cross, which implies the gift of oneself. In communion with the Pope, we are called to offer -in our lives, saved and filled with the love of God -a rock on which every human person can lay down his or her sorrows, uncertainties, and doubts. “Blessed” are we, chosen to proclaim the Gospel: for this reason and in all circumstances, the infinite power of the love of God shining in the glory of his Resurrection will keep us close to his Cross, key to the kingdom of God.
Christ has given to Peter the “keys” of the Kingdom, calling him to be crucified with him, to bring with him on his shoulders the light and gentle yoke, to learn the humility and mildness with which to “free” men from the slavery of the world, of the flesh and of evil, and to “bind them” to Him, the Christ, in an alliance that will never end.
The consecrated virgins are special witnesses of it, because, “bonding” themselves totally and only to Christ, they are united to Him on the cross. Virginity is the crucifixion of self to be donated to God, and nailed to his love by embracing Christ in the Cross. Virginity cannot be reduced to a renounce; it is not a limitation but an enhancement of love as a gift that consecrates a person in Love and transforms the lover into the Beloved. The love lived virginally is a crucified love not because it is a mortified love, but because it is a “sacrificed” love, that is, made sacred by the total gift of oneself to God.

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