“That Gospel that we just heard is at the very center of Matthew’s Gospel and is the great turning point in his Gospel where Jesus begins to reveal himself ever more fully as the Messiah and as the son of God. He first of all asks the disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am? What have you heard about me?’ And they say, ‘Well maybe you are John the Baptist risen from the dead, maybe you are Elijah or one of the prophets.’ But then the crucial question comes, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ And of course Peter makes that beautiful profession of faith, ‘You are the Christ, the Messiah, the son of the living God.’ and Jesus says, ‘Blessed are you Peter for God has revealed that to you. It is the gift of faith that is implanted in your heart.’ It’s important for all of us to think about that question that Jesus asked Peter, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ Because I really believe that that is a fundamental question that each and every one of us is going to be asked on our day of judgement. Who have we said that Jesus is by the in which we have believed and lived? Have we truly recognized him as savior, as God, as friend, as brother, as redeemer, as someone who wants an intimate relationship with us? What is our own response to Jesus’ question, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ Not just with your lips, but with your heart, who do you say that I am?
We could also think about another question though and that is a question that we might address to Jesus and that question would be to Jesus, ‘Jesus who do you say that I am?’ And that’s an important question as well. Who does Jesus say that you and I are? Take a moment, what answer do you think that Jesus would give you if you would ask him that question. Who do you, Jesus, say that I am? Our answers might be all over the ballpark, but I think what Jesus would say to each and every one of us, ‘You are my beloved brother and sister. You are truly an adopted son and daughter of God. You are precious in my eyes. I love you so deeply and yes, you’ve sinned, but you’re also forgiven and you’re destined for ever greater life with me for all eternity. I think that’s what Jesus wants to say and that is what Jesus says so often in the Gospels as we read the Gospels it’s about his forgiveness, about his love, it’s about his call for us to realize our own dignity and the greatest expression of that love is the cross itself as Jesus gave himself up totally saying, ‘I love you.’ Every time we see a crucifix we should see that it’s a message of love. This is how much I personally love you. This is how important you are to me that I died and rose that you may have life everlasting. That’s how much Jesus loves us. That’s what we mean to Jesus. That’s who we are in relationship to Him and of course the challenge is then to truly live that within our lives not to put ourselves down. Yes, we’ve all sinned, but so often people are so burdened by their sin that they don’t know forgiveness. They don’t realize God’s abundant love for them that God embraces them so tenderly and so fully, at least he wants to, within our lives and so we are called to respond to the message that Jesus gives us about who we are in relationship to him.
That Gospel then goes on and it talks about Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church and I give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. That is so beautifully depicted in our stained window there which depicts Peter kneeling there before Jesus and receiving the keys obviously symbolic of that power that was given to Peter and the importance of the Petrine Ministry within the Church. What a tremendous blessing that is for through Peter we have that source of stability and unity within the Church and how important it is for us to realize that and to give thanks to God for that ministry of Peter, but the words that I was particularly thinking about today were the words later on where Jesus says, ‘I give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven whatever you bind on Earth will be bound in Heaven and whatever you loose on Earth will be Loosed in Heaven and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.’ The gates of Hell shall not prevail against the Church, against the body of Christ. That is a beautiful promise, but I’m reminded of the words of Archbishop Sheen, that great preacher of the Gospel, and one of the things that Archbishop Sheen said about this passage was that we as Catholics tend to misunderstand that. We think it’s that we’re always going to be protected. All we need to do is to batten the hatches and hold in tight and God will not let the power of evil to overcome us. Archbishop Sheen said, ‘It’s really the opposite. It’s a call for us to go out to proclaim the Gospel, to confront the gates of Hell, the power of evil, to confront it and with God’s grace to overcome it.’ That is what is really needed is for us not to recede in fear, but rather to go forth with a great awareness of the grace and the strength that Christ gives us. There’s so much evil within our world. We all know it. Our culture has been radically transformed in the last 40 or 50 years. There’s a transformation that has really manifested more and more. Yes, there’s lots of goodness, but there’s lots of evil as well. As a Church obviously we confront that evil most of all through the acts of goodness through the acts of life and there’s so many things done by the Catholic Church in fidelity to Christ, works of charity through Catholic Charities and so many other ministries of healthcare of orphanages of schools of various missionary activities and so many wonderful things of light that are done and how important that it is that we continue to do those, but we also need to confront the evil that is in our society and in our culture not to be timid, but to be strong in professing truth in professing the dignity of life, the wonder of God’s gifts, the beauty of creation to affirm so very strongly the dignity of human sexuality and the right of each and every human person and so we are called to think about how much God has been excluded so much from our societal life that God has been so often marginalized and religious values are said to have no place within our national life. We were built upon religious values. That’s the foundation upon which our forefathers and mothers established this nation and we allow that to be eroded only to our own peril and so we are reminded to be able to confront the power of evil to recognize that God’s grace is with us. We are called to shine forth with the light of Christ’s truth and with the warmth of his love to transform our world according to the Kingdom of God of God’s justice and God’s love and God’s truth.”