Father Valan Arockiaswamy

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HOMILIES

Close Dear Audience,
For better understanding of the spiritual message behind this homily I kindly remind you to first read and contemplate the biblical texts before reading or listening to my preaching - a human reflection on the Word of God!

Twenty First Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)

Aug 27, 2017 Views 95 Listen 13 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the first Book of the Prophet Isaiah (22:19-23)

Thus says the Lord to Shebna, master of the palace: "I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station. On that day I will summon my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah; I will clothe him with your robe, and gird him with your sash, and give over to him your authority. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim's shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open. I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot, to be a place of honor for his family."

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (138:1-2, 2-3, 6, 8)


(R) Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.

I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with all my heart, for you have heard the words of my mouth; in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise; I will worship at your holy temple. (R)

I will give thanks to your name, because of your kindness and your truth: when I called, you answered me; you built up strength within me. (R)

The Lord is exalted, yet the lowly He sees, and the proud He knows from afar. Your kindness, O Lord, endures forever; forsake not the work of your hands. (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans (11:33-36)

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are His judgments and how unsearchable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been His counselor? Or who has given the Lord anything that He may be repaid? For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Gospel

A reading from the Gospel according to Matthew (16:13-20)

Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and 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." Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
(R) Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

Homily

Last week we examined Jesus' visit to the gentile region of Tyre and Sidon and, his encounter with a Canaanite woman who had begged him to cure her daughter. Jesus initially ignored her, and then rejected her demand because she was a gentile, but eventually, commended the woman for her great faith and granted the request. After that, Jesus returned to the Sea of Galilee, and went to the region of Caesarea Philippi.

Caesarea Philippi lies approximately twenty-five miles north-east of the Sea of Galilee, at the foot of Mount Hermon. It is a unique and beautiful place. It was certainly an important place in ancient Israel. First of all, it was a place of many ancient gods, particularly the birthplace of the Greek god, Pan, the god of nature. Second, at the base of the mountain, there is a massive wall of rock that is well over 100 feet straight up, and a cave, which used to be a source of water for the River Jordan. Scholars say that an earthquake blocked off the source, and now the water seeps up from underground and flows into streams to become the headwaters of the Jordan River. This abundant water supply has made the area very fertile and attractive for religious worship. Third, during the time of Jesus, it was outside the domain of Herod Antipas, who had ordered the killing of John the Baptist, and was within the area of Philip the Tetrarch, and its population was mostly non-Jews. Fourth, at the entrance to the cave, Philip had built a temple to Caesar. Hence, it was called Caesarea Philippi.

By the time he went to Caesarea, Jesus had preached in many places and, performed many miracles and done amazing things. In his teaching, he often quoted the Jewish Scriptures with authority, and used parables to explain various aspects of his mission on earth. The disciples marvelled, the religious leaders and government officials were amazed, and the crowds were filled with wonder at all the things Jesus had said and done. But very few people understood the mission of Jesus, including his own disciples. A large majority of the Jewish people were confused, torn between Jesus' teachings and the Jewish scholars' teaching of the Law. The religious leaders disliked Jesus and eventually grew to hate Him to the extent that they were wishing to do him harm and even to kill him. Aware of their plan and his approaching death, Jesus left the region of Galilee, and went to Caesarea Philippi and there, he put all His disciples to the test, by first asking them what and how, His many followers thought of or perceive Him.

He asked them who the people of His day thought he was, and they gave answers ranging from John the Baptist to one of the prophets of the olden times whom they thought had come back to life. But then he turned the question to them, his followers of a few years. They had travelled with him and heard him teach. They had witnessed his miracles. They had seen his great compassion and love for people. He asked them what they thought of him or who they believed him to be. Before any of the disciples answered, Simon replied, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God!"

The term "messiah" comes from the Hebrew word "mashiach", which means "anointed one" or "chosen one", and which is literally translated as "Christos" in Greek or "Christ" in English. The Messiah was the one God had promised to send to His people and the one God had anointed to be their deliverer. This was the person whom Peter, like his fellow Jewish brothers and sisters, had been waiting for a long time. He was the one who was going to ultimately save them. As far as Peter's confession that Jesus is the "Son of the living God", is concerned, his words fulfilled the Scriptures, but in time he and the others would come to realize that those words meant more than they had understood at the time. However, Jesus' response was swift. He warmly commended Peter's confession of faith and insight, which He pointed out, did not come from any human source, or from his own personal intuition, but rather it came from God Himself. That is to say, God the Father had revealed Jesus' true identity to him.

Here, Peter's confession assumed a deeper level of understanding than the confessions that others had made. So, Jesus changed his Hebrew name "Simon" meaning "listen" to "Cephas" meaning "stone" or "rock", and which is translated as "Petros" in Greek and "Peter" in English. And then Jesus declared that upon this rock he would build his church, and "the gates of hell" would not prevail against her. That's to say, Peter and the other disciples would be the instrument to carry the Gospel message to the world and no one would have the power to destroy her. Jesus also promised to give them "the keys to the kingdom of heaven". Here, by the kingdom of heaven, we may consider the true Church or the house of God, and by the keys, the power of admitting into that house, or of barring any improper person from coming in. Finally, Jesus charged them not to tell others that He is the Messiah, Matthew (16:20).

It was not because he was afraid of revealing his identity to the people but rather to avoid people's misconception of His true identity or making them disappointed. Because people had been expecting the Messiah, to come through the line of King David, and who would be a political figure destined to free the Jews from the Roman occupiers. And also, the disciples were not yet ready to proclaim the true nature of Jesus because of their own lack of understanding.

What is the message for us?

We generally associate "confession" with someone admitting one's guilt or moral lapse or a crime. However, in the Christian tradition a confession is a statement of belief in essential doctrines of faith. To confess means to affirm, declare or acknowledge what one believes is true. So, all Christians by definition are people who confess that Jesus is Lord. Peter made a bold, clear and direct confession of faith in the divinity of Jesus: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God", and Jesus identified him as the rock on which He would build His Church.

It is, therefore, important that first and foremost, we, as Christians, make a good, true, and personal confession of faith like Peter, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. And when we truly do confess our faith in Jesus Christ, we will become a member of His kingdom; our relationship with Him will become stronger; our inner being will become secure and firm, stable and steady, whole and intact. We will become like a rock, upon which our Lord Jesus will continue to advance and expand His Church and His Kingdom on earth. Hence, let us all, with Peter say, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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