Starting from Caesarea-Philippi

You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Christ took the disciples to a remote place in the north, and they discussed an interesting question. Who do people say that the Son of Man is?

Who do we say that He is?

catechismNow, few people pick up the Catechism of the Catholic Church looking for drama. But the transition from Chapter 1 to Chapter 2 offers some drama. Chapter 1 had ended with the fall of Adam and Eve. The Catechism quotes Vatican II, “the whole of man’s history has been the story of dour combat with the powers of evil.”

Then, drama. Paragraphs 422 and 423:

But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. …We believe and confess that Jesus of Nazareth, born a Jew of a daughter of Israel at Bethlehem at the time of King Herod the Great and the emperor Caesar Augustus, a carpenter by trade, who died crucified in Jerusalem under the procurator Pontius Pilate during the reign of the emperor Tiberius, is the eternal Son of God made man. He ‘came from God,’ ‘descended from heaven,’ and ‘came in the flesh.’ For ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. . . And from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace.’

The exchange between Christ and Peter, which we hear recounted in this Sunday’s gospel reading–this exchange serves as a kind of spiritual fountainhead for the Church of Christ.

The phrase ‘son of God’ previously had meant: an angel, or Israel as a whole, or the king of Israel. The idea that this or that person could have a special intimacy with the divine–this idea had a long and widespread history.

john paul ii loggia be not afraidBut what happened that day, what St. Peter said about Jesus, marked the beginning of something fundamentally different. What the Church proclaims about Jesus Christ involves a mystery that no one had previously imagined, a doctrine that Jews and Muslims to this day reject as impossible. Peter proclaimed that the Christ, the Son of God, is God the Creator Himself, living truly as a man. In other words, St. Peter proclaimed the In…

The Incarnation.

God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father and born of the Virgin Mary. The God of the Christians. Christ, born of the Father before all ages and crucified under Pontius Pilate.

Pope St. John Paul II, when he inaugurated his papacy in St. Peter’s Square on October 22, 1978, referred to what St. Peter said at Caesarea-Philippi. ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ The new pope said, “Brothers, sons, and daughters: These words first of all.” Then St. John Paul went on to pray, “Christ, make me become and remain the servant of your unique power, the servant of your sweet power, the servant of your power that knows no eventide.” Then the Pope uttered what became his most famous words, “Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors to Christ!”

Pope Francis, in his preaching on the episode at Caesarea-Philippi, has emphasized what came after Peter’s profession of faith. (We will hear the account at next Sunday’s Mass.) Jesus announced His upcoming suffering and death. Peter, scandalized, rejected the whole idea.

Pope Francis Mass consecrationPope Francis has insisted that it is not enough to hold the faith of the Church. The true Christian must follow Christ down the path of humiliation, down the path of ‘death to everything.’ A Christian is recognized, Pope Francis says, by the capacity to bear humiliation with joy and patience.

The Christ, the Son of the living God, recognized at Caesarea-Philippi. We start from Him. Having embraced His bitter cross, He gives life in abundance. From our faith in Him springs our whole way of life, our whole way of seeing things, our whole way of making choices and acting in a distinctive manner, and, of course, our whole way of praying.

Summertime draws to a close. We have a new academic year ahead of us. A year of hard work, evangelization, Christian education, spiritual striving.

This time last year we meditated on moving the tabernacle to the center of the building (at both our local cluster parishes). This year we need to meditate on what the Lord in the tabernacle asks us to do to deepen our worship of Him and our service to Him, what we need to do to draw more souls to Him.

A year ago, I had the sense that the world faced some particularly tough times. We prayed like mad, at Pope Francis’ request–and a miracle averted an American intervention in the war in Syria. But the world looks a whole lot worse now, even, than it did a year ago.

These are times that try men’s–and women’s–souls. We need Jesus. We need to hold fast to His cross. May He grant us the grace to know how to serve Him, and the courage and the enterprise to accomplish what He asks.

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