**Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fr. Joe Austin **
August 20th, 2023 - 11:00 AM
If Pentecost — that time when Christ’s Passover is fulfilled in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit — If Pentecost is called the birthday of the Church,
then perhaps it could be the case that our Lord’s words to Peter in today’s Gospel indicate a sort of annunciation. Our Lord’s words to Peter, in a way, seem to be akin to the archangel Gabriel’s words to our Lady, when She was told that She was to give birth to the messiah.
Gabriel appeared to Mary, and told her the news, saying, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.”
The archangel goes on to say, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”
Mary responds to Gabriel’s words by giving her consent: “May it be done to me according to your word.”
First Gabriel appears and shares the news, and then, Mary assents.
In today’s, what we’ll call, “annunciation”, the order is reversed.
Rather than Jesus telling Peter that he will build his Church with Peter as the foundation, and then Peter giving his assent, something else happens.
In response to Jesus’ question of, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter responds by saying “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And then Jesus shares the news, that Peter will be the foundation upon which the Church will be built. Our Lord says to Peter, “Blessed are you, Simon.”
The very next time Peter speaks in the Gospel, he is met with a very different response, when our Lord rebukes him, saying, “Get behind me Satan!”
However, in today’s Gospel, Peter’s confession of faith merits being acknowledged as blessed, by our Lord. It goes to show, that Peter is still human, and he still needs our Lord’s guidance.
This confession of faith by Peter was not spontaneous. Our Lord played a role in the coming forth of this confession of faith. By asking the disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” he is about to bring forth an awareness, an awareness in the minds of the disciples, he is about to bring to mind that people can mean very different things, even when referring to what can at first may appear to be the same thing. Some say Jesus is just a holy man. Peter says he is the Son of the living God, and therefore, he is God. Both reference the Son of Man. Both carry entirely different meanings.
For what is the distance between God and man, but an infinite space? Some say he is Elijah or some other prophet, some say he is John the Baptist come back from the dead. All these are very important human beings, all very holy men — but still, just men. Our Lord then asks, “But who do you say that I am?” and Peter responds with his confession of faith, that Jesus is the Son of the living God, the Christ, the anointed one, the one who is to finally bring Israel out of its slavery to the forces of evil.
Jesus is the Son of God, and therefore, he is God.
He is also fully man. Fully God. Fully man.
This is what is called the hypostatic union, and it was officially declared doctrine at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. The hypostatic union means that Jesus has two natures: one fully divine, and one fully human. Both exist in the one divine Person of Jesus.
Thus, the distance between God and man, which was once an infinite space, has now become united in one, in the person of Jesus.
Thus, the surest path to God, the guaranteed path to God, is the path of Jesus Christ — it’s his path of calvary, wherein he defeated sin and its burdensome effects and opened the way to heaven, to fulness of union with God, for all humanity.
Today’s Gospel invites us to be like Peter, to grow in our knowledge and understanding of Who this ultimately mysterious Person is, the God-man Jesus Christ. In growing in knowledge and understanding, we will more and more come to identify Him as the Christ, the Son of the living God, with a depth and a fulness that is meant to lead us to express in the fulness of our spirit just how good God is. And we can do this, because we are members of that Church built upon Peter and his confession of faith, that confession of faith to which we Christians, too, believe.