Lectio Divina: Chair of Saint Peter, apostle
1) Opening prayer
you have given us the witnessing of the apostles
as the firm rock on which we can rely.
Where Peter is, there is the Church.
But we see today that the bark of Peter is rocked;
we are often like capricious children
unused to our newfound freedom.
Make us use this freedom responsibly
and do not allow us to lose our composure.
Reassure us that You are always with us
and keep us optimistic about the future,
for it is Your future
and You are our rock for ever.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 16:13-19
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, 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. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Today s Gospel presents us three points: the opinion of the people concerning Jesus (Mt 16:13-14), the opinion of Peter regarding Jesus (Mt 16:15-16) and the response of Jesus to Peter (Mt 16:17-19).
Matthew 16:13-14: The opinion of the people regarding Jesus. Jesus asks for the opinion of the people regarding who He is. The responses are diverse: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Not one of them gives the right answer. Today, the opinion of the people regarding Jesus is also very varied.
Matthew 16:15-16: The opinion of Peter regarding Jesus. Immediately, He asks the opinion of the disciples. Peter becomes the spokesperson and says: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God! The response is not new. The disciples had already said the same thing (Mt 14:33). In the Gospel of John, the same profession of faith is made by Martha (Jn 11:27). It means that through Jesus the prophecies of the Old Testament are fulfilled.
Matthew 16:17-19: The response of Jesus to Peter. The responses come from several places: Blessed are you, Simon. Jesus proclaims Peter blessed because he had received the revelation from the Father. The response of Jesus is not new. Previously, He had praised the Father for having revealed the Son to little ones and not to the wise (Mt 11:25-27) and had made the same proclamation of blessed to the disciples because they were seeing and hearing things that before nobody knew (Mt 13:16).
- Peter is Rock (Pietra). Peter has to be Rock, the stable foundation for the Church in such a way that it can resist against the gates of Hell. With these words from Jesus, Matthew encourages the communities which were persecuted by Syria and Palestine. Even if weak and persecuted, the communities have a stable foundation, guaranteed by the words of Jesus. The rock as the basis of faith reminds the people the words of God to the People in exile: Listen to me, you who pursue saving justice, you who seek Yahweh. Consider the rock from which you were hewn, the quarry from which you were dug. Consider Abraham your father and Sarah who gave you birth. When I called him he was the only one but I blessed him and made him numerous. (Is 51:1-2). It indicates a new beginning.
- Peter, Rock. Jesus gives a name to Simon and calls him Rock (Peter). In two ways, he is rock-foundation, (Mt 16:18) and is rock (pietra) a stumbling obstacle, (Mt 16:23). In our Catholic Church we insist very much on Peter rock-foundation and we forget Peter-stumbling rock or obstacle. On the one hand Peter was weak in his faith, doubtful, and tries to deviate or withdraw from Jesus. He was afraid in the garden, he fell asleep and fled, he did not understood what Jesus was saying. On the other hand, he was like the little ones whom Jesus called blessed. Being one of the twelve, he became their spokesman. Later, after the death and resurrection of Jesus, his image grew and he became a symbol of the community. Peter is firm in faith not because of his own merits, but because Jesus prays for him, in order that his faith would not fail (Lk 22:31-34).
- Church, Assembly. The word church, in Greek, eklesia, appears 105 times in the New Testament, almost exclusively in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles. In the Gospels it appears three times, only in Matthew. The word literally means convoked or chosen . It indicates the people who gather together, convoked by the Word of God and who try to live the message of the Kingdom which Jesus brings. The Church or the community is not the Kingdom, but it is an instrument and a sign or indication of the Kingdom. The Kingdom is greater. In the Church, in the community, it should appear in the eyes of all what happens when a human group allows God to reign and allows Him to take possession of our life.
- The keys of the Kingdom. Peter receives the keys of the Kingdom. This same power of uniting or binding and of separating or loosening is also given to the communities (Mt 18:18) and to the other disciples (Jn 20:23). One of the points which the Gospel of Matthew insists the most is reconciliation and pardon or forgiveness. It is one of the more important tasks of the coordinators of the communities. Imitating Peter, they should bind and loose, that is, do in such a way that there be reconciliation, reciprocal acceptance, and construction of the fraternal spirit.
4) Personal questions
What are the opinions in our community regarding Jesus? Do they enrich the community or do they make the journey and communion more difficult?
Who is Jesus for me? Who am I for Jesus?
5) Concluding Prayer
Turn your ear to me, make haste.
Be for me a rock-fastness,
a fortified citadel to save me.
You are my rock, my rampart;
true to your name, lead me and guide me! (Ps 31:2-3)