Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time (Homily)
August 23, 2020 11:30 am · Father Sergio Muñoz Fita
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
Today's Gospel brings to mind the end of my pilgrimage to the Holy Land two years ago. After 3 months walking more than 700 miles from Egypt to the border between Israel and Syria, my roaming through those holy places ended precisely in the region of Caesarea Philippi where the confession of Peter that we just heard takes place. It is a green area with abundant water throughout the year, which is contrary to the image we usually have of Israel and Palestine. The day I arrived there, May 8th, it rained a lot, although that didn't matter to me. I was happy because, with God's help, I had happily concluded my journey.
It is no coincidence that the landscape of that region is dominated by Mount Hermon, which is the highest peak in all of Israel. In winter there is even a ski slope on the south side of the mountain. It is the largest stone mass in the Holy Land, so the place is very appropriate for the message of Jesus to Simon, "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church." I can almost imagine Saint Peter listening to the Lord with his gaze fastened on the summit of Hermon, thus understanding better, visually, that his faith should be as firm and unshakable as that of the mountain.
The Church of Christ is the Church of Simon Peter and there is no other.
As Saint Augustine expresses, the roots of the Catholic Church are rooted in Peter's confession of faith that day. Peter’s boat that two weeks ago we saw blown about in the storm-tossed sea, is the boat of Jesus. That's where we all come from. Along with Simon, we too proclaim to the world that Christ is the Son of the living God.
Allow me to end today with a text from “The Dialogue” of Saint Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church, on the Pope, whom she called "sweet Jesus on earth. The work is called, “The Dialogue”, because it gathers revelations that God the Father communicated directly to the saint. When she went into ecstasy, it took up to five scribes to copy the words that came out of her mouth because they were aware of the value of those revelations and did not want anything to be missed.
At one point, God the Father says this to Saint Catherine:
This is the key to the Blood of My only-begotten Son, that key which unlocked eternal life, closed for so long a time because of Adam's sin. But after I gave you My Truth, the Word, My only-begotten Son, He suffered and died, and by His death He destroyed your death by letting His Blood be a cleansing bath for you. Thus His Blood and His death, by the power of My divine nature joined with His human nature, unlocked eternal life.
And to whom did He leave the keys to this Blood? To the glorious Apostle Peter and to all the others who have come or will come from now until the Final Judgment Day with the very same authority that Peter had. Nor is this authority lessened by any sinfulness on their part; nor can that sinfulness deprive the Blood or any other Sacrament of its perfection. (Ch. 14.115)
Those times were not better than ours. I cannot elaborate on this point because it would take us far too long. The important thing is that today the Word of God invites us to renew our faith in the mystery of the Incarnation and encourages us to trust in the wisdom and knowledge of God of which Saint Paul spoke. It gives us the opportunity to appreciate the gift of being part of the community of Jesus, his little flock, which will never be defeated by the powers of the netherworld. We pray for the Pope, “sweet Jesus on earth”, so that as the Vicar of Christ, he may also be his living reflection in the sanctity of his life, the wisdom that is a gift of the Holy Spirit and his love for the sheep of his flock until the end.
I also want to ask for your prayers because next week I will be making my five-day canonical retreat and will be away from the parish. God willing, I'll be back in Saint Anne next weekend.
God bless you!