The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home
August 23, 2020 – Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 16:13-20
Download this simple process to Prepare for Sunday using the Observe, Judge, Act Method.
Many of us enjoy a good mystery story. We delight in books, movies and television shows where we are brought into a story where, for most of the narration, we are “left in the dark” about “who done it” or “what’s really going on.” We pay close attention because there are usually “clues” about the “what and the who.” Good stories always seem to have well-placed clues. Some are subtle and some are more obvious. We hope we don’t miss them.
Biblical scholars often point to today's gospel as one of those places where we are given clarity (a good clue) as to what’s really going on in the life of Jesus. While the event described is brief, it is packed with important information about Jesus. Through the words of Peter, we catch a glimpse of the deeper identity of Jesus and the mission of Jesus here on earth.
Some explanation might help us more fully appreciate the importance of this gospel narrative. Jesus asks his disciples what others are saying about Jesus. Who is he? Where does he come from? What is he doing? Key questions for sure.
As good Jews, those who know Jesus, his deeds and his words, have various opinions of who he might be. Perhaps he is a prophet like those sent from God in their history. Knowing that John the Baptist (someone people saw as doing God’s work on earth) had been killed by Herod, some wondered whether Jesus might be connected to him. So, lots of opinions about Jesus out there.
Then Jesus looks at Peter and asks him directly what he thinks. What’s recorded in Mark’s Gospel are the very telling words: “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.” We are also told that the work of Jesus is bringing together heaven and earth. In other words, God with humankind. What’s done on earth happens also in heaven, and what’s in heaven in a real way happens also on earth. What’s beginning with the coming of Jesus is what’s prayed for in the Our Father: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus came to earth to unite God with creation. God with us. In fact, Jesus is God with us.
This is the deepest mystery of all. We are given a clue, but it will take us a whole lifetime (and more) to appreciate the fullness of this. As was presented in a book and movie a few years back, this is “The Greatest Story ever told.”
©David. M. Thomas, PhD