Thursday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Numbers 20:1-13 + Matthew 16:13-23
August 5, 2021
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Today’s Gospel passage is well-known for revealing Jesus’ intention of founding His Church on the rock of faith, personified both in the individual Simon Peter, and in the office of the papacy. What sometimes is overlooked is what immediately follows. These latter verses also reveal something important about the Church, about the office of the papacy, and about the men who hold that office.
When Jesus “began to show His disciples that He must” suffer and be killed, the newly appointed Peter begins to “rebuke” Jesus! The word “rebuke” is not a soft one. But Jesus immediately and forcefully corrects Peter, revealing to us that Peter’s office does not pertain to the personal concerns, insights or doubts of him who holds the office. Nor is the officeholder of the papacy unable to err.
Peter’s error here counters the profession of faith that he had made, after which Jesus named him “Peter”. Jesus at that point praised Peter’s confession of faith, and pointed out to him something key by stating: “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father”. Contrast these words with what Jesus says following Peter’s scandalous rebuke: “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do”.
This contrast between the divine and the human is heard in the juxtaposition of Peter’s confession of Jesus and Jesus’ rebuke of Peter. Peter’s confession is of Jesus’ divinity. But Peter is rebuked because he refuses to accept Jesus’ humanity as the means of Jesus’ mission. Each of us needs to accept Jesus’ mission of offering His Body and Blood on the Cross. Through this mission, Jesus will fully offer divine life to those of us who place our faith in Him.