Home » Gospel Encouragement – 12th September 2021 – 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel Encouragement – 12th September 2021 – 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear sisters and brothers,

About two years ago I was fortunate enough to go to the Holy Land with my fellow seminarians. And whilst there we spent some time in Caesarea Philippi the setting for today’s Gospel. Today it is quite a beautiful and serene place with trees, and a beautiful stream. Two thousand years ago Caesarea Philippi was quite a different place. For you see it was a notorious place of pagan worship to the false god pan. It was even a place of child sacrifice. It might therefore seem odd that Our Lord chose this place to ask his disciples ‘Who do you say I am?’  But our Lord does this to elicit an act of faith from his disciples. He takes his disciples to a place where it seems that the evil one has dominion, has power, a place where it will take great courage and faith to declare who Jesus truly is. And it is in this setting, surrounded by the darkness of paganism that St. Peter gives the response ‘You are the Christ’ St. Peter was inspired by the light of faith. In such a setting it would have been easy for St. Peter to focus on the darkness, or for his faith to shrink, or for doubt to set in but his faith held firm.

He focused on Christ, Christ who is the light that shines in the darkness. That same question that Jesus puts to St. Peter he also puts to us here today. Who do you say I am? We can show who Christ is to us by the way we live our lives and by the way we act out our faith.

It seems in this moment that St. Peter has it all sorted, he has it all figured out. But as we soon discover he still has a long way to go for in the next passage Jesus rebukes Peter in a shocking and sharp way when Jesus says to Peter ‘Get behind me Satan.’ Indeed this isn’t even Peter’s lowest moment which we hear on Holy Thursday when Peter denies our Lord three times. But let us look forward to what happens next, Peter is redeemed on the shores of Tiberias and becomes the leader of the apostles, the first Pope and the founder of the Church in Rome.

In the Gospel we see how Peter unwilling, unable and perhaps even scared to accept that Jesus must suffer and die moves and places himself, his own desires, thoughts and wants ahead of Christ. Perhaps if we have lost a job, a loved one or even when a friend has become ill or sick we may question and ask ourselves why does God allow these things to happen, this is indeed a difficult question, but perhaps one answer is that God doesn’t protect us from our struggles, he transforms us through our struggles. There can be a tendency to assume that because we are Christians that our lives will be easy, but Christ tells us that a servant is not greater than his master so just as Christ had to take up his cross and suffer, so must we do the same.

To share a favourite quote of mine from the Venerable Fulton Sheen: ‘Unless there is a Cross in our lives there will never be a resurrection.” The Christian law of life is we have to die in order to live. This does not mean physically dying. Rather it means dying to ourselves through acts such as mortifications, self-denial, and the application of the Cross in our own lives. Unless we die to ourselves we cannot live with Christ. Of course we do not like the Cross in our lives. As a matter of fact we often try to escape it and flee from it. But this is not Christ’s way, the devil tempts us to reject our cross. We can think of Our Lord’s agony in the garden, or the temptations in the wilderness to see this. But we should remember that Christianity is not easy, Christianity costs something and Grace is not cheap. We cannot just walk through life into the Kingdom of Heaven. We have to work out our salvation. Therefore let us take up our cross everyday, and follow Christ because it is only with and through him that we will be saved.

With every blessing,

Deacon Liam