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Evangel. /Prof. Michael Howard, MACS

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." (Mt. 16:13-20)

A cherished moment as a youngster occurred when my grandmother asked me about the Bible. Her favorite question was, "What was Peter's response to Jesus?" I repeated a verse from today's gospel reading, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God" (Mt. 16:16). Interestingly, Grandma never elaborated further on the passage from this gospel. Me reciting this passage brought her joy and me a lemon meringue pie slice.

For this reason, my Lectio experience made me contemplate Jesus's response to Peter's confession. "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father" (Mt. 16:17). This verse captivated me. Enamored by this one thought, my spirit reflected on Jesus' heavenly Father revealing the identity of Jesus to Peter. Flesh and blood nor newsprint on a scroll did not penetrate Peter's feeble mind as he trembled in responding to Jesus. God, "our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress" (Ps. 46:2), touched Peter's lip with a new revelation of who was standing before him: Jesus.

God revealing to Peter the identity of Jesus made me contemplate what we need in our relationship with God. Journey with me; we perhaps have professed who Christ is through our Sunday School classes or in our sacrament preparation courses. Some of us have led adult Bible studies and proclaimed God's Word as a lector. However, the daunting question is, have our practices caused us to enter a chamber in the mundane world? The world of I love the Lord; I read the Bible; I am okay. Have we zoomed into reality shows, depending on flesh and blood to reveal who Jesus is for us as adults? Is our inner voice confused at times?

What do we really need in our relationship with God? What will you and I have to do to silence the voice that wants to cause a lackluster spirit within us? Amos, the Prophet, said, "Woe to those who are complacent in Zion, secure on the mount of Samaria" (Am. 6:1). And if you think that we are not, nor never been complacent in our relationship with God or felt secure in our ivory towers, the scriptures say, "there is no one on earth so just as to do good and never sin" (Eccl. 7:20). Complacency falls in the category of the deadly sin of pridefulness. Pride can mute the inner voice that wants more of God in our lives. What do you need in your adult life in your relationship with God to touch the Divine, Really?

While in this soul-searching reflection on your relationship with God, suppose you feel an inward tug from God. Can the Divine be silencing your heart to reveal a new revelation? Could Jehovah-Jireh have a ram in the bush to provide a need that you thought was next to impossible? Could Jehovah-Nissi have a victory banner for you to raise after many years of battling an incurable disease? Or perhaps Jehovah-Shalom wants to bring you to a Sabbath rest of peace from a gospel titled, Get all you can get, and then get more.

What do you really, really need to ignite a fiery response like Peter's that flesh and blood did not reveal, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God" (Mt. 16:16). Remember, whatever you need, make sure you avoid listening to flesh and blood. I suggest that you do the following:

  • Seek out the LORD and his might; constantly seek his face. (Ps. 105:4) (Be still)

  • Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near. (Is. 55:6) (Pray to God)

  • ... seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what of what is above, not is on earth. (Col. 3:1-2) (Remove obstacles on earth that block your vision.)

  • ... seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. (Mt. 6:33) (Remember the Beatitudes - Mt. 5:1-12)

  • ... anyone who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Heb. 11:6) (Be gracious in receiving God's gifts)

In biblical numerology, the number five stands for supreme grace. Be still; these five graced-filled passages will propel you into God's holy presence. Here, you will receive a new revelation of God in your life that "flesh and blood did not reveal." God took Peter to another level. The question is, "What are you willing to do to ascend to the next level in your relationship with God?

Author: Evang./Prof. Michael Howard, MACS

Facilitator, University of Dayton, VLCFF,

University of Notre Dame, McGrath Institute, STEP Online,

Lead Faculty and Course Designer "The Presence of Black Catholics in the Church Today and Tomorrow" Loyola Marymount University,

Founder of Eat the Scroll Ministry

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