Sunday, August 27, 2017

HOMILY - 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year A

Isaiah 22:19-23           Romans 11: 33-36      Matthew 16: 13-20
Deacon Jerry Franzen - Cathedral  August 26, 27, 2017

Caesarea Philippi was an area populated by Gentiles, not Jews.
They worshipped false Gods; they were pagans.
Jesus asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
The Messiah was referred to as the “Son of Man”
in the Book of Daniel.
The disciples would have understood that.
The people of Caesarea Philippi did not know Jesus,
but they seemed to know enough about the Jewish faith
and the expected Messiah
that they gave answers familiar to the Jews.
John the Baptist had quite a following among the Jews.
Elijah was taken up into heaven in a fiery chariot
and was to return at the completion of the Kingdom.
Prophets were among the most famous of the Jews.
Then Jesus asked his followers, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter’s reply was: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Where are we in this small part of St. Matthew’s Gospel?
We certainly are not like the pagans of Cesarea Phillipi
who did not know much about Jesus.
We are disciples, followers of Jesus, like Peter and the others.
Our answer would have probably been similar to Peter’s.
We all KNOW ABOUT Jesus as the Messiah.
But the question is: “Have we really gotten to KNOW Jesus
as Peter had been getting to know Jesus?”


What is the difference between knowing ABOUT someone
and knowing someone?
Up until a few weekends ago I knew about Bishop Sam Jacobs.
People had told me that he was a friendly and revered bishop
who has had a long-time involvement
with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.
I knew that he is a retired bishop from Louisiana.
I knew that those who had heard him speak thought the world of him.
I knew about him.
At the National Charismatic Conference in Pittsburgh in July,
(I should probably whisper the word Pittsburgh)
I was fortunate to meet Bishop Jacobs.
I can now say that I know him to some extent.
I have heard him preach, and he is a wonderful homilist.
I asked him questions, and he gave me insightful answers.
I can recognize him, if I should encounter him again.
I have seen him speak since the conference in a video,
and now I know some of his story, some his faith journey.
I get email reflections on the daily readings authored by him,
and I continue to get to know him better in that way.
I knew OF him, but now I KNOW him, if only a bit.

This is similar to Peter’s relationship with Jesus.
Peter may have heard about Jesus,
and may have formed an opinion about him
before Jesus called him to be an apostle.
But Peter got to know Jesus only by hearing him preach,
by hearing him interpret the Jewish scriptures for the disciples,
by asking him questions and learning from his answers,
by witnessing his miracles.
Peter knew Jesus up to this point by having been with him.


But there is another important line in today’s Gospel.
Jesus said to Peter, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has NOT revealed this to you,
but my Father in heaven.”
All that Jesus had done and said with His flesh and blood
had NOT revealed to Peter that Jesus was the Messiah.
It was not the human nature of Jesus that had revealed this to Peter;
it was the divine nature of Jesus,
the nature that Jesus shares with the Father
and with the Holy Spirit.
It was the grace of faith that revealed Jesus as the Messiah to Peter.
Peter would have understood that this grace came from the Father.
Jesus had not yet taught his disciples about the Holy Spirit.

In the catechism of the Catholic Church, we find the following:

#684 “Through his grace, the Holy Spirit is the first to awaken faith in us and to communicate to us the new life, which is to ‘know the Father and the one whom he has sent, Jesus Christ’” (John 17:3)

Even though Peter’s faith was later tested
and found to be not as strong as it would seem in this Gospel reading,
Jesus told Peter that he, Jesus,
would build His church on Peter as its foundation.         
And that did happen only after the Holy Spirit
came down upon the apostles at Pentecost.
Let us not forget or overlook the role of the Holy Spirit,
the second gift from the Father for our salvation.
In #689 In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read:

“When the Father sends his Word, he also sends his Breath.”
Here Word begins with a capital “W”; that means Christ.
“Breath,” also capitalized, refers to the Holy Spirit.

That paragraph goes on:
“In their joint mission, the Son and the Holy Spirit are distinct but inseparable.  To be sure, it is Christ who is seen, the visible image of the invisible God, but it is the Spirit who reveals him.”

The Holy Spirit is the source of our Faith.
To really know Jesus as a person one must know the Holy Spirit.


At our baptism, we received the gift of the Holy Spirit;
faith was awakened is each of us.
As we grew, the Holy Spirit guided us, directed us,
revealed Jesus to us as the model of how we should live.
As we followed the promptings of the Holy Spirit,
we found what is good in life, what God wants of us,
even though we may not have recognized the Holy Spirit,
We probably perceived that the promptings came from parents,   teachers, the clergy, friends, relatives etc.
The Holy Spirit was working through those around us.
This was the beginnings of getting to know Jesus,
of our developing a personal relationship with him.
Our faith, our trust in God should have grown through this.
As we have moved on as adults,
the promptings of the Holy Spirit continue from those around us.
But the promptings also come from within us.
        Maybe I should do this.
        I am being drawn to that.
        Something is missing in my life.
It is up to us to be open to these promptings of the Spirit,
to have faith in them, to trust them, to respond to them.
We grow in our faith
and thereby in our personal relationship with Jesus.
Often these prompting will be such that we are puzzled,
we may not see where they will lead us.
Or they may look like they will lead us outside of our comfort zone.
We must trust that the Holy Spirit pushing us toward the good.
The Holy Spirit will never lead us down the wrong path.
He will not lead us down what looks like a difficult path without
also being the source of grace necessary
for our successfully navigation of that difficult path.
All the while our faith in God, Father, Son and Spirit, grows,
we get to know Jesus better,
and the path to our salvation becomes clearer.

I have often told you that my favorite definition of faith is:
“Our trusting response to a God who is ever inviting us
into a closer relationship with His Son, Jesus.”
It then seems to me that the Holy Spirit is
the continual messenger of that invitation.
We must not ignore the power of the Holy Spirit.
       What is God asking of me?
       How is he asking me to serve Him?
       Should I step out of my comfort zone to share my faith.
       How can I be an instrument of the Holy Spirit?

Peter heard God’s plan for him to be the foundation of the Church,       and it took the power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost
for that plan to be realized in Peter.
That same power of the Holy Spirit is here for each of us,
if we just have the faith to let it work within us.
Wherever you are in your relationship with God,
follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit,
and let your relationship with Jesus Christ grow.