21st Sunday in Ordinary Time


by John Dalla Costa

One of the qualities which drew people to Jesus, and which so threatened others, was his double vision. Where others saw lepers, Jesus saw persons. Where others saw a blind man, Jesus saw one who could see the truth. Where others saw a Centurion or Samaritan, Jesus saw exemplars of that rare integrity to live spiritual faith in concrete action.

That gift of seeing the whole person features again in today’s gospel, as Jesus bestows the keys to his heavenly kingdom to Peter.

As the scriptural scholar Raymond Brown pointed out, Matthew’s gospel tells the story of Jesus with a unique emphasis on the formation of the church. Peter plays a large and not always laudable part in Matthew’s narrative: he is the truth teller who lies about knowing Christ; the one who declares Jesus as Messiah, yet whom Jesus later rebukes for thinking like Satan; the impulsive believer who jumps overboard to walk like Jesus on water, only to sink and nearly drown because of his fears and doubts.

Despite these abundant flaws, foibles and failures, Jesus sees Peter in ways that Peter himself has yet to fathom. The Holy Spirit will at Pentecost animate that latent greatness. But what qualifies Peter to be chosen by Jesus as the rock on which the church will be built is Peter’s answer to the question about Jesus’ identity.

In seeing and recognizing Jesus Peter begins to discover the truth about himself. Church was born here, not as an act of domination or empire-building, but as one in which participation in the wholeness of Jesus begins to reveal the authentic wholeness of Peter

Such is the gift of the question, “But you, who do you say I am?” By answering, we inevitably learn about ourselves while discovering who Jesus is; by declaring our faith we get a glimpse of that double vision, not only learning to see as He does, but beginning to understand who we are as Jesus sees us.