A nice group gathered again this month for Thursday Night Life at St. Joseph Church on the south side of Cheyenne. Sorry, no pics this month, but the homily for the evening follows. Be sure to follow the diocesan website for information on dates and locations for future gatherings.
Matthew 16:13 – 20
You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.
I chose this Gospel passage this evening because I wish to speak with you of my own discovery of Christ, and my deep desire to invite you to a deeper knowledge of Christ and to a more intimate relationship with Christ.
There is much packed into this confession of faith; a statement I have come to hold dear, and one that is vital for all people to reach as a means of salvation.
Jesus is certainly much more than a good man – who lived a good life.
Jesus is certainly more than a prophet or miracle worker.
Jesus was and is a Friend to many – and yet – so much more.
Jesus was and is a compassionate and merciful preacher – and yet so much more.
Many today hold these good, but limited opinions of Jesus. They see nothing more than the humanity of Jesus. And yet, we believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is God, the Second person of the Trinity. Jesus is not just a man, one among the many great figures of history. Nor is the Bible, God’s Sacred Word, just another book among many in the Library of Congress.
To limit Jesus to just another member of humanity, and to limit God’s Holy Word to just another book in print is to limit our access to God, and further restrict God’s revelation of His very self to all of humanity. Of course, to draw these ‘lines of limit’ in the sand would seem to relieve some of the obligations and responsibilities that follow once we recognize Jesus as the Christ. What these people fail to realize, is it also limits us to the transcendent, which is our only source of rising above the difficulties of life, and the otherwise limited horizon of humanity.
I remember as a priest visiting with a young woman who was struggling with her faith. I listened intently to her story and her struggle. After she shared with me her doubts and the turmoil it was creating, I began to slowly offer some words of faith and encouragement. However, once I began referencing Scripture as a source of hope and instruction, she stopped me. She strongly downplayed any divine source of origin for Sacred Scripture, and saw the bible as something written by men. Part of her reasoning included the historical process in which the Church determined which books of the bible were included or excluded as a part of the canon. Of course, with this line of thinking, she also failed to acknowledge the divine origins of the Church, and the authority entrusted to the Church by Christ Himself, in the very passage of the Gospel we just listened to.
Once I was no longer able to call upon the authority of Sacred Scripture, my argument was deflated. There was no other direction I could take to give this young woman any word of hope, and she rebuffed my plea to remain in the Church. I never saw her again. I remember being very frustrated at the secular forces at work at that time, causing such confusion. I could see the despair such confusion was causing in the lives of otherwise “good people.” Now a decade later, the confusion is magnified, as is the despair. And the consequences are grave.
As mentioned earlier, Jesus is ‘so much more’. God’s Sacred Word is ‘so much more.’ That ‘so much more’ is what makes the difference and that difference is captured in Peter’s confession: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” To reach this point of belief is a gift, as Jesus tells Peter: “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” (Mt 16:17)
Jesus Himself is a gift from the heavenly Father. The gift of faith – to believe in Jesus as the Son of God – is a gift from our heavenly Father. We do not possess this gift of faith alone, or selfishly. We possess the gift of faith for the sake of others.
Jesus gives us the gift of the Church, and this gift is also reflected in our Gospel passage this evening:
And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the nether world shall not prevail against it.”
Through the Church, Jesus continues to give Himself to us. It is through the Church – through the faith of Peter – that I have been given the faith to believe. It is through the Church, I am given the One in Whom I believe, Jesus Christ. It is Christ Who comes to us today in the person of His Church.
Christ preached the Gospel of the Kingdom of God & gave us a New Commandment.
Christ founded the Church as a means for the Divine encounter with humanity, indeed as the means of His continually forming humanity more and more into His image.
Christ commanded His Apostles to continue both, His preaching & His Church.
Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt 28:18-20)
Christ is the source of all life. (Col 1:16)
Christ is the only means of redemption. (Ephesians 1:7)
Christ is the source and point of unity, (Ephesians 2:11-22)
For all humanity and
For all creation. (Col 1:17, 20)
In summary, then, my dear, young friends: All life is drawn forth from the Divine Life of the Trinity. Thus, we see the original intention, and original and on-going unity that exists in all of humanity. The human race is one. Our unity flows from God, and the many divisions of sin Christ came to heal so as to restore the unity of humanity by uniting us again to His Body through His self-sacrificing Love, poured out upon the cross. Though this redeeming event took place in time and history, it is limitless, knowing no bounds of time or capacity.
So here we are tonight, adoring this same Christ, the Son of the living God. Here we are tonight giving thanks for the Infinite Love that gives us birth and renewal of life, Life eternal. We give thanks for the gift of faith that allows us to see and believe that God has sent us His Son, that Jesus preached the Word of Life to us, that He died and rose for our salvation, that He gave us His Church and the sacraments, especially the Sacrament of the Eucharist, that we might have life, and have it to the full! My dear friends, all this we believe, and we believe it in and with and through the Church. Let us graciously receive this gift of faith and the Life it offers. Let us then generously live this Life, and generously offer it in return to others, in all its richness, as it has been handed down to us.
Long live Jesus Christ and His Church!0