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Living for Others

  • August 4, 2022 (readings)
  • Memorial of Saint John Vianney, Priest
  • Jennifer Ristine
  • Matthew 16:13-23

    When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in Heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven.” Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

    Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, grant me the grace of an interior knowledge of your heart, a heart that desires the salvation of souls no matter the cost.

    Encountering Christ:

    1. God’s Intention: In today’s first reading, Jeremiah spoke from the heart of God. We saw his intention to make a New Covenant, a binding relationship of love in which God claimed his people as his own, personally executing their exodus from slavery as a Father rescuing a beloved son or daughter. Jeremiah’s prophetic words offer hope of a God who is near at hand, who stakes his rightful claim over his people, and who will give them a fresh start, “never more calling their sin to mind.” Let’s ponder God’s intention for his people, an intention he continues to hold today for you and for me.

    2. Evoking Conviction: In the Gospel, Jesus progressively asked his disciples to consider and confess their convictions about who he is. His leading question, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” took a personal turn when he asked, “But you, who do you say I am?” Is there a distinction? Perhaps Jesus was provoking an awareness of their belief. Did they believe what others said about him or did they come to a deep conviction based on their experience and the authority of his word and deeds? If we imagine Jesus asking us this question, what voices resound within that define who Jesus is? Do they come tainted with negative human experience from who mainstream culture tells us he is, or from our sincere encounters with him? When Peter professed his conviction that Jesus was the “Messiah, the Son of the living God,” Jesus recognized that the response came from neither superficial emotions nor human agencies but from the Father who revealed the truth. How do we make space in our life to receive the same revelation from the Father and truly discover who Jesus is in his word and deeds? 

    3. A New Name, a New Mission: After Peter’s heartfelt and enlightened confession of faith, Jesus gave him a new name and mission. “Peter, upon this rock I will build my Church.” To know Christ is to be caught up in his life by existing for others. Peter was integrated into the mission of Jesus, sent by the Father. He would lead God’s people and hold the keys to the Kingdom, the keys that offer access to the New Covenant mediated by Jesus Christ through his paschal mystery. But as soon as Peter received this new mission, he was tempted to carry it out according to his criteria, not God’s criteria: “suffering, death, and rising on the third day.” Jesus struck back against Peter’s rash and pragmatic mindset, inviting him to think like God, who sacrificed his only Son. It is a testament to the criteria that a true disciple must embody, one of laying down one’s life for the other. 

    Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, you invite me to enter a New Covenant with you and in you. Open my eyes to see how this translates into following you in my daily life. Grant me new hearing attentive to the secular mindset that obscures my capacity to follow your heart. 

    Resolution: Lord, I will be attentive today to my thoughts, particularly those that need to be infused with greater faith.

    For Further Reflection: Discernment of Spirits, Rule 2


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