Cardinal Homily

Intimacy of Christ and Peter, Our Communion as Church

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Week XXI-A, 26 August 2017
Isaiah 22:15,19-23//Romans 11:33-36//Matthew 16:13-20
            Friendship leads to intimacy that blooms into a communion or unity of persons.  We have reflected last week how Jesus invites us into an intimacy especially when He is silent for “God speaks in silence.”  An important prerequisite for intimacy and communion is identity, not only of knowing the other person but most of all, identification with the other person.
            Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and 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.”(Mt.16:13-17)
            Jesus is asking us the same question today, “who do you say that I am?”  We do not need to think of any other answer; Simon Peter’s response to the Lord’s question is the only answer.  It is the perfect answer because it was revealed to him by the Father as Jesus Himself had declared.  So, why bother at all to answer again the Lord’s question of “who do you say that I am?” First of all, we ought to answer correctly who Jesus really is because any misconception of His identity would result to wrong beliefs and wrong practices.  This is the reason that the Church has vigorously fought so many heresies especially during its first 800 years.  Whenever and wherever the identity of Jesus as “the Christ and the Son of the living God” is negated or disregarded, there is always a desecration of life and a diminishing of the person because we all share in the identity of Jesus as beloved child of the Father.  Examine our history and we find that our disintegration from a single unity before as the Christendom was largely due to our wrong perceptions of who Jesus really is that continues up to this time when we insist Jesus could only be in a specific place or time in history, when we insist He is present only in a certain way doing of things like rituals and traditions, and when we insist that He could only be present among a particular group of people or believers.  Intimacy with the Lord is never enough because faith in Him is always social in nature and dimension.  True faith and intimacy in the Lord lead to a communion with God and with others.  And the key is to claim and own what St. Peter proclaimed in Caesarea Philippi 2000 years ago:  “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
            Claiming and owning St. Peter’s profession that Jesus is “the Christ” means that He is our only Savior on whom we only rely in this life.  Can we let go of our companions in life like your children or simply our kasambahay?  It is almost a month now since Manang had left for Texas to be with her daughter married to a US serviceman.  I must confess to you that on the eve of her departure, I cried while praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament because I was eerily thinking of the many inconveniences and adjustments I have to make while Manang is out on a grand vacation.  As I prayed that night, I felt Jesus reminding me over and over again, “Nick, it is I, not Manang whom You truly need.”  Fine.  I felt better after realizing that, something which I should have known all along.  But two days after Manang had left, I got so sickly.  Then her temporary replacement resigned and the worst blow came a week after when the only parish volunteer I was relying heavily had to go on leave because her husband suffered a stroke!  How I complained and protested to Jesus that night at the Blessed Sacrament, asking Him why are You making life so difficult for me?  What have I done to deserve this that He had to take away even the little comforts I have?  Eventually I have come to realize as I went on doing all the things in my parish that it is really only Christ whom I can count on in life.  To claim that Jesus is the Christ is to be alone with Jesus.  This we can truly realize only when we are most vulnerable in life like being sick and old, forgotten and taken for granted by others.
            When we are alone with Jesus, that is when we also learn to claim and own St. Peter’s confession that Jesus is “the Son of the living God” because it is only in Christ do we truly experience the fullness of life.  There are three words for “life” in Greek: “bios” like biology that refers to physical life; “psyche” like psychology refers to mind, emotion and will; and “zoe” which refers to eternal life.  St. Matthew originally wrote that part “living God” as “zontos Theou” with zontos coming from zoe.  He was referring not just physical life or bios but eternal life of a God who truly lives, really alive living among us!  When we live in Jesus as our Christ, we also have that sense of fullness of life because we find meaning and direction from all the struggles and difficulties we go through.  There is a daily “unfolding” of the beauty and majesty of life, and of God that we could not fully grasp and contain, experiencing joy amidst pain like St. Paul in the second reading: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!”(Rom.11:33)
            Before His arrest, Jesus told His disciples at their Supper that “I no longer call you slaves but friends.”(Jn.15:15 Jesus considers us all His friends.  Every Sunday in the Holy Mass, we renew this friendship in Him when we proclaim He is the Christ and the Son of the living God.  Let us keep in our minds that we have as well as whatever we are going through, our salvation and life is in Christ alone unlike Shebna in the first reading who abused his powers in the Temple of God.  You are blessed in having a friend in Jesus! 
Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II,
Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista,
Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin,
Sta. Maria, Bulacan