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Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: Isa 22:19-23; Ps 138:1-2, 2-3, 6, 8; Rom 11:33-36; Matt 16:13-20

August 20, 2014

Who do you say you are?

 
Who do you say that I am? (Matt 16:15)
 
The question Jesus poses in today's Gospel is not a pop quiz for the disciples. Since it comes halfway through Matthew's Gospel, at a critical turning point, we might be tempted to think Jesus is giving a kind of midterm exam to see how well the disciples are understanding him and to test whether they have what it takes to go the rest of the journey with him. But, the scene may also reflect Jesus' own development in understanding his identity and mission. Taking Jesus' humanity seriously, and recalling Luke's assertion that "Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor" (Luke 2:52), we might say that in today's Gospel and next Sunday's, we see a glimpse of Jesus' deepening understanding of what it meant to be "the Christ, the Son of the living God" (v.16). 
 
In contrast to modern Western cultures in which individuals expend energy trying to find their own unique identity as a person distinct from other persons, in Jesus' culture, characterized by dyadic personality, a person understood himself or herself only in relationship to the groups in which she or he was embedded: family, clan, nation, and religion. Paul, for example, identifies himself as "a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews, as to the law, a Pharisee" (Phil 3:5). Earlier in the Gospel, the people of Jesus' hometown identify him as "the carpenter's son," whose mother is Mary and whose brothers are James, Joseph, Simon, Judas, and who also has sisters (Matt 13:55-56). In addition, in such a culture, the perceptions of others also help to shape a person's identity.
 
In today's Gospel, Jesus seeks out others' perceptions as he solidifies his understanding of himself. The disciples first report that people align Jesus with revered prophetic figures: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah. While there are many parallels between Jesus and these prophets, Matthew clearly distinguishes Jesus from them. He is the "more powerful" one "coming after" John (Matt 3:11). And it is John who embodies the returned Elijah (Matt 11:14; 17:12).
 
As Jesus presses the disciples for their own response, Peter, the spokesperson for the group, rightly declares, "You are the Messiah (christos)." This is a term used in the Old Testament for one who is set apart by God for particular service, such as kings (Ps 2:2; 89:20); priests (Lev 4:3, 5), and prophets (1 Kgs 19:16). That Jesus is christos, "anointed," is not a new revelation in Matthew's Gospel (see 1:1, 17, 18; 11:2). But the nature of Jesus as messiah, entailing suffering and death, is articulated for the first time in the ensuing verses (16:21-27), the Gospel for next Sunday.
 
As Jesus' identity emerges and solidifies, so too does that of Peter. Verses 17 to 19 are unique to Matthew, with a wordplay on the name, Petros, "rock" in Greek. Jesus exalts the emerging rock-like faith of Peter and of the whole community of disciples whose identity is tied up in that of Jesus. Yet in the very next verses, the "rock" will falter when confronted with the stumbling block scandalon (Matt 18:6, 7) of Jesus' passion.  
 
 Nonetheless, as the Gospel progresses, Jesus continues to call him "Peter," enabling him to become what he is named. Just as the disciples' naming of Jesus as "Messiah" and partnering with him in his messianic mission enabled him to embrace all that being the "anointed" one entailed, so too Jesus' identification of the believing community as "rock solid" brought forth that quality in them. Likewise, we are invited to let Jesus and our faith community call forth our deepest identity as followers of the anointed, whose solidity is sure.
 
PRAYING WITH SCRIPTURE:
 
1. What is Jesus saying to you about your identity as his follower?
 
2. How are your gifts for mission identified by your faith community?
 
3. Who do you say you are?
 
 
These reflections appeared in Abiding Word. Sunday Reflections for Year A (Liturgical Press, 2013) 96-97.
 
© Copyright 2014 Catholic Theological Union. All Rights Reserved. 
 
About Catholic Theological Union at Chicago
Catholic Theological Union is one of the largest Roman Catholic graduate schools of theology and ministry in the United States.  The mission of Catholic Theological Union is to prepare effective leaders for the Church, ready to witness to Christ's good news of justice, love, and peace. 
 
 Scripture Reflection
Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 24, 2014
 
WHO DO YOU SAY YOU ARE?
 
Readings: Isa 22:19-23; Ps 138:1-2, 2-3, 6, 8; 
Rom 11:33-36; Matt 16:13-20
 
Who do you say that I am? (Matt 16:15)
 
The question Jesus poses in today's Gospel is not a pop quiz for the disciples. Since it comes halfway through Matthew's Gospel, at a critical turning point, we might be tempted to think Jesus is giving a kind of midterm exam to see how well the disciples are understanding him and to test whether they have what it takes to go the rest of the journey with him. But, the scene may also reflect Jesus' own development in understanding his identity and mission. Taking Jesus' humanity seriously, and recalling Luke's assertion that "Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor" (Luke 2:52), we might say that in today's Gospel and next Sunday's, we see a glimpse of Jesus' deepening understanding of what it meant to be "the Christ, the Son of the living God" (v.16). 
 
In contrast to modern Western cultures in which individuals expend energy trying to find their own unique identity as a person distinct from other persons, in Jesus' culture, characterized by dyadic personality, a person understood himself or herself only in relationship to the groups in which she or he was embedded: family, clan, nation, and religion. Paul, for example, identifies himself as "a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews, as to the law, a Pharisee" (Phil 3:5). Earlier in the Gospel, the people of Jesus' hometown identify him as "the carpenter's son," whose mother is Mary and whose brothers are James, Joseph, Simon, Judas, and who also has sisters (Matt 13:55-56). In addition, in such a culture, the perceptions of others also help to shape a person's identity.
 
In today's Gospel, Jesus seeks out others' perceptions as he solidifies his understanding of himself. The disciples first report that people align Jesus with revered prophetic figures: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah. While there are many parallels between Jesus and these prophets, Matthew clearly distinguishes Jesus from them. He is the "more powerful" one "coming after" John (Matt 3:11). And it is John who embodies the returned Elijah (Matt 11:14; 17:12).
 
As Jesus presses the disciples for their own response, Peter, the spokesperson for the group, rightly declares, "You are the Messiah (christos)." This is a term used in the Old Testament for one who is set apart by God for particular service, such as kings (Ps 2:2; 89:20); priests (Lev 4:3, 5), and prophets (1 Kgs 19:16). That Jesus is christos, "anointed," is not a new revelation in Matthew's Gospel (see 1:1, 17, 18; 11:2). But the nature of Jesus' as messiah, entailing suffering and death, is articulated for the first time in the ensuing verses (16:21-27), the Gospel for next Sunday.
 
As Jesus' identity emerges and solidifies, so too does that of Peter. Verses 17 to 19 are unique to Matthew, with a wordplay on the name, Petros, "rock" in Greek. Jesus exalts the emerging rock-like faith of Peter and of the whole community of disciples whose identity is tied up in that of Jesus. Yet in the very next verses, the "rock" will falter when confronted with the stumbling block scandalon (Matt 18:6, 7) of Jesus' passion.  
 
 Nonetheless, as the Gospel progresses, Jesus continues to call him "Peter," enabling him to become what he is named. Just as the disciples' naming of Jesus as "Messiah" and partnering with him in his messianic mission enabled him to embrace all that being the "anointed" one entailed, so too Jesus' identification of the believing community as "rock solid" brought forth that quality in them. Likewise, we are invited to let Jesus and our faith community call forth our deepest identity as followers of the anointed, whose solidity is sure.
 
PRAYING WITH SCRIPTURE:
 
1. What is Jesus saying to your about your identity as his follower?
 
2. How are your gifts for mission identified by your faith community?
 
3. Who do you say you are?
 
Sr. Barbara E. Reid, OP
Vice President and Academic Dean
Professor of New Testament Studies
 
These reflections appeared in Abiding Word. Sunday Reflections for Year A (Liturgical Press, 2013) 96-97.
 
© Copyright 2014 Catholic Theological Union. All Rights Reserved. 
 
About Catholic Theological Union at Chicago
Catholic Theological Union is one of the largest Roman Catholic graduate schools of theology and ministry in the United States.  The Scripture Reflection
Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 24, 2014
 
WHO DO YOU SAY YOU ARE?
 
Readings: Isa 22:19-23; Ps 138:1-2, 2-3, 6, 8; 
Rom 11:33-36; Matt 16:13-20
 
Who do you say that I am? (Matt 16:15)
 
The question Jesus poses in today's Gospel is not a pop quiz for the disciples. Since it comes halfway through Matthew's Gospel, at a critical turning point, we might be tempted to think Jesus is giving a kind of midterm exam to see how well the disciples are understanding him and to test whether they have what it takes to go the rest of the journey with him. But, the scene may also reflect Jesus' own development in understanding his identity and mission. Taking Jesus' humanity seriously, and recalling Luke's assertion that "Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor" (Luke 2:52), we might say that in today's Gospel and next Sunday's, we see a glimpse of Jesus' deepening understanding of what it meant to be "the Christ, the Son of the living God" (v.16). 
 
In contrast to modern Western cultures in which individuals expend energy trying to find their own unique identity as a person distinct from other persons, in Jesus' culture, characterized by dyadic personality, a person understood himself or herself only in relationship to the groups in which she or he was embedded: family, clan, nation, and religion. Paul, for example, identifies himself as "a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews, as to the law, a Pharisee" (Phil 3:5). Earlier in the Gospel, the people of Jesus' hometown identify him as "the carpenter's son," whose mother is Mary and whose brothers are James, Joseph, Simon, Judas, and who also has sisters (Matt 13:55-56). In addition, in such a culture, the perceptions of others also help to shape a person's identity.
 
In today's Gospel, Jesus seeks out others' perceptions as he solidifies his understanding of himself. The disciples first report that people align Jesus with revered prophetic figures: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah. While there are many parallels between Jesus and these prophets, Matthew clearly distinguishes Jesus from them. He is the "more powerful" one "coming after" John (Matt 3:11). And it is John who embodies the returned Elijah (Matt 11:14; 17:12).
 
As Jesus presses the disciples for their own response, Peter, the spokesperson for the group, rightly declares, "You are the Messiah (christos)." This is a term used in the Old Testament for one who is set apart by God for particular service, such as kings (Ps 2:2; 89:20); priests (Lev 4:3, 5), and prophets (1 Kgs 19:16). That Jesus is christos, "anointed," is not a new revelation in Matthew's Gospel (see 1:1, 17, 18; 11:2). But the nature of Jesus' as messiah, entailing suffering and death, is articulated for the first time in the ensuing verses (16:21-27), the Gospel for next Sunday.
 
As Jesus' identity emerges and solidifies, so too does that of Peter. Verses 17 to 19 are unique to Matthew, with a wordplay on the name, Petros, "rock" in Greek. Jesus exalts the emerging rock-like faith of Peter and of the whole community of disciples whose identity is tied up in that of Jesus. Yet in the very next verses, the "rock" will falter when confronted with the stumbling block scandalon (Matt 18:6, 7) of Jesus' passion.  
 
 Nonetheless, as the Gospel progresses, Jesus continues to call him "Peter," enabling him to become what he is named. Just as the disciples' naming of Jesus as "Messiah" and partnering with him in his messianic mission enabled him to embrace all that being the "anointed" one entailed, so too Jesus' identification of the believing community as "rock solid" brought forth that quality in them. Likewise, we are invited to let Jesus and our faith community call forth our deepest identity as followers of the anointed, whose solidity is sure.
 
PRAYING WITH SCRIPTURE:
 
1. What is Jesus saying to your about your identity as his follower?
 
2. How are your gifts for mission identified by your faith community?
 
3. Who do you say you are?
 
Sr. Barbara E. Reid, OP
Vice President and Academic Dean
Professor of New Testament Studies
 
These reflections appeared in Abiding Word. Sunday Reflections for Year A (Liturgical Press, 2013) 96-97.
 
© Copyright 2014 Catholic Theological Union. All Rights Reserved. 
 
About Catholic Theological Union at Chicago
Catholic Theological Union is one of the largest Roman Catholic graduate schools of theology and ministry in the United States.  The