Reflections 27th August 2017

A Reflection for the Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mt: 16:13-20 ( )  

I find social media fascinating even though I have only used it as the need arises. Email is very useful; I can surf the web and almost twenty years ago I built a very rudimentary web-page. But Facebook, Twitter and other more recent apps have left me far behind. I am fascinated when someone refers to having hundreds or thousands of ‘friends’ or ‘followers’; my understanding of a friend or follower is somewhat more traditional and I sometimes wonder if the use of these terms in a contemporary setting needs more definition and clarity.

Today’s Gospel (Matthew 16:13-20) gives the impression as well that, on the occasion described, Jesus was also looking for a sharper definition and clarity from his disciples. “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” was his first question. Both the reply from the disciples and the location where the question was made are significant. The disciples could list off the religious figures – John the Baptist, Jeremiah or another prophet who current popular opinion deemed Jesus to be. The setting and location, Caesarea Philippi, is also important. Here was found an ancient pagan shrine – a sacred spring issuing from the mouth of a cave and dedicated to the god Pan. The site had been enhanced and beautified by the Romans and still, at the time that the question was posed, attracted quite a few visitors. Might Jesus be related or connected to Pan in some people’s minds?

Matthew tells us that Jesus subsequently sought sharper definition and clarity. “Who do you say I am?” was Jesus’ follow-up question. The focus was no longer on the ‘people’ but on ‘you’ –  the followers of Jesus. Peter’s reply was in no way ambiguous. “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” was his response. There’s no lack of definition or clarity there!

Perhaps we could turn that question on ourselves today: “Who do I say Jesus is”? Like the first followers of Jesus, we might easily be able to point to many definitions or descriptions of Jesus and the implications of being a follower of Jesus from contemporary society or from the contexts we move in. But who really is Jesus for us? For me specifically?

After Peter gave his answer, he was entrusted with a mission – he was to be the builder of Church not in brick and stone but a builder of Church whose construction materials were community, faith, commitment, love, care, concern … Definition and clarity in the scene in Caesaria Philippi included an intellectual definition of who Jesus was which followed into a specific and concrete action or task - a mission.  

Getting back to ourselves, when I personally answer “Who do I say Jesus is?”, what is the mission entrusted to me that follows from my answer?

John Kilcrann C.S.Sp.-  Fr. John is a member of the current leadership team of the Irish Province of the Spiritans. He previously served in Brazil, Rome and the USA.