In order to draw deeply from the Scriptures today, especially the Gospel, it's important for us to connect it with what we've heard in the Gospel on the last couple of Sundays, and I think you'll remember very readily a couple of Sundays ago when Jesus challenged his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" They were fumbling around until Peter stepped up and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." Jesus praises him.
The Peace Pulpit
I’m sure we remember last Sunday’s gospel because it was so dramatic, where Jesus had asked his disciples, “Who do people say I am?” and they were fumbling around trying to come up with an answer. They said, well, one of the prophets, maybe Jeremiah, Elijah. Then Peter steps up and says, “You are the Christ, the son of the Living God.” Jesus was very excited about that, that Peter recognized who he was, but then at the end of the gospel, Jesus says something quite strange for the disciples -- and for all of us -- because he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
Going all the way back to my grade school days when I was in a Catholic parochial school, we studied religion. I can remember this particular text very well: "Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build My Church."
If we listen very carefully to the scriptures today, especially this gospel lesson, we will discover more about Jesus, especially in his humanness, but also we will be challenged by the story of the courageous faith of this woman and the boundary crossing that happens in this incident.
In order to listen deeply and carefully to the lesson of this Liturgy of the Word, it's important for us to remind ourselves of the context in which these three lessons are provided for us today.
It goes back a number of Sundays where Jesus first began his public life and proclaimed the Good News. "The Reign of God is at hand. Change your lives. Something new and important is going to happen."
To begin our reflection today, I thought I might call attention first of all to those inspiring and encouraging words from Paul's letter to the Church at Rome that we heard as our second lesson.
As we begin to listen carefully to our Scriptures of today, it’s important to remind ourselves what we mean by this Reign of God. Sometimes it’s called the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven, but the Reign of God is really the best terminology because when you say Kingdom of God or Kingdom or Heaven, you think of a place. That isn’t what Jesus is talking about. When He began His public life, He said, “The Reign of God is at hand. Change your lives.” It’s something that we can enter into, a relationship, if we change our lives. One Scripture commentator has described the Reign of God as the dynamic rule of God’s saving or healing love, that which makes us whole and all that we can be. That’s the Reign of God.
In order to hear deeply the words that Jesus proclaims to us today, I think it’s important once more to remind ourselves that at the beginning of his public life Jesus had proclaimed, “The reign of God is at hand” -- and then he said, “change your lives.”
Every so often, I get in the mail (and probably some of you do also) notices about retreats, workshops and various kinds of activities like that, that will enlighten us and strengthen us in our faith.
John and the other first disciples had this insight about God: God is love. Love is something that goes out and becomes an interaction. So if God is love, then somehow within God, there is a beauty of life. We know if we experienced love, there is God. God is love. So we begin to have the beginning of an understanding of what we celebrate today, and the kind of God we celebrate, who is love, is proclaimed very beautifully in our first lesson.