Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
Peter certainly had his moments, highs and lows on his journey of discipleship. In today’s gospel we see both sides, the sainted rock and foundation of the Church, who through grace acclaimed Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” and the sinner, an obstacle to Jesus, “thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” Peter was very human in his rejection of suffering and death. It took time for him to understand that suffering and sacrifice for the sake of others are the “keys to the Kingdom of heaven.”
A miracle occurs when what is seen and experienced as an obstacle transforms through the grace of God into a source of life. In the first reading, a rock brought forth life in the desert. Jesus knew that the way to new life was through being broken open for the well-being of others. Peter, the Church, and we ourselves require continual renewal. When we become calcified and stuck in our ways through either fear or simply routines, we must ask for the desire to be broken open so the life we receive from Christ may continue to be poured out for others. The psalmist calls out: If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
St. Dominic, whose feast we celebrate today, was inspired to find a new way of sharing of the faith by breaking from tradition to found the Order of Preachers. Instead of living apart from the world in monasteries, Dominicans share the gospel on the road through preaching and service. Along with St. Francis, a contemporary in this new movement, St. Dominic was a source of inspiration for St. Ignatius who would later follow their pattern, forming his new company, the Society of Jesus, to be “contemplatives in action.”
Where am I experiencing resistance to suffering and sacrifice?
What area of my life right now is in most need of being broken open?
Lord, you ask a question to Peter that could be asked of us: “Who do you say that I am?” If one were to review a video of our day, capturing both the daily routines and the more significant moments, would we be identified as your follower?
Lord, I recommit myself to you. Where I experience resistance to suffering and sacrifice let me surrender in hope to you. Where I allow my ego and my fears to dilute my commitment to living for you, grant me your grace to move forward in your love and mercy.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team