This Sunday’s gospel reading, from Matthew 16, comes as Part Two of last week’s reading. Hopefully everyone remembers: St. Peter boldly declared that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One. Peter made that declaration in the name of the whole Church. He professed our faith. [Spanish]
St. Peter had the clarity and courage to profess that faith, not by his own cleverness or diligence, but by the pure grace of God. Same goes for us: we believe in Christ because the good Lord has given us the grace to believe. A gift from heaven allows us to perceive that Jesus of Nazareth, one of the countless human beings who have walked this earth, and lived, and died: a divine gift allows us to grasp that He is the only-begotten Son of the one, true, eternal, and omnipotent God.
So St. Peter professed our Christian faith, at that moment at Caesarea Philipi. But there’s a big But. At that moment, momentous as it was, St. Peter still had not yet grasped the mission of his Savior, at least not fully.
Peter envisioned the Christ on His throne, but he didn’t know that the throne would be a cross. Peter envisioned the Messiah conquering the power of evil; he didn’t know that Jesus would conquer evil by suffering evil. Peter imagined great glory for himself, as the right-hand man of the King of Israel. But at that moment at Caesarea-Philipi, Peter didn’t realize that being the first pope meant that he would die upside down on his own cross, at the foot of Vatican Hill, 1500 miles away from home.
Peter didn’t understand. So, as we will hear at this Sunday’s Mass, he at first bitterly resisted his Master’s plan to die at the hands of evil men. Later, however, when it all actually came to pass; when Christ went to His execution; when the innocent Lamb silently offered Himself to the Father; when it all happened, just as the prophets had foretold, it did resound in Peter’s heart. Yes, this was the utterly inevitable way. The only divinely-appointed way to bring the mission of the Christ to fulfillment.
If I might, I would like to expand a moment on one thing I said last week. I pointed out this fact. On the one hand, honest pagans throughout the ages have seen immediately that the sacrifice of Christ makes this wrong world right. African Bantus and Huron chiefs in Canada have seen a crucifix, understood that this is the Son of God, Who offered Himself for the whole human race, and have said: “This is my King!” Yet the luminous beauty of Christ crucified has gotten lost in the mind of the Western world. It’s like we Western peoples can’t see the beautiful rose that we hold in our own hands.
Why? Maybe it’s because we won’t face the wrongness of the world–the wrongness which needs to be made right by the one and only Christ.
Now, what exactly is “wrong” with the world? Well, how long do we have? We could list some serious issues. The inescapable one—the one that everyone could agree on, at both political conventions, is this: We will all wind up as a set of rattling bones.
–Gosh, how morbid, Father! The virus and your suspension have gotten to you. Why don’t you watch some Youtube cat videos?
But the honest pagan faces it. Our situation is hopeless. No matter how many cat videos we watch, we will nonetheless die, relatively soon.
And that ain’t right. We don’t want to die. Something is profoundly wrong. Death is 100% certain, but the fact strikes us as altogether wrong.
Christ makes it right. The Christ Who dutifully went to Jerusalem, and suffered greatly, and was killed. The Christ Who lost His life for the sake of love and truth. Christ crucified has reconciled heaven and earth. Christ crucified has made human life right again, made it worth living. Hope springs up for mankind because this champion has won His battle. And He won it in order to share his victory with us.