The Gospel for this Sunday forthrightly presents the suffering that awaited Jesus and anyone, who would be Jesus Christ’s disciple. “Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, ‘God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.’ He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.’” (Mt 16:22-23)
In this coming Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus asks His disciples two very simple yet very profound questions. The first: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Mt 16:13b) The disciples gave different answers by listing a few great prophets’ names- John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah. To the second question, “But who do you say that I am?” (Mt 16:15) Peter answered: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Mt 16:16) Jesus praises Peter’s insight and confirms that this revelation did not come from human understanding but through the Holy Spirit.
The story of the persistent Canaanite woman has intrigued and puzzled Christians for two thousand years. Why would Jesus treat this pious woman with what seems like indifference, even hostility? Why does he refuse (it seems) to answer our own prayers? The solution can be found in the very Biblical category of testing.
In the readings for this 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, we hear about two dramatic encounters with God where both Elijah and Peter experience His presence and those encounters help deepen their faith.
In the first reading, God told Elijah, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by.” (1 Kgs 19:11) A strong and heavy wind came followed by an earthquake, then a fire, but the Lord was not to be found there. Then there was a tiny whispering sound and God was there. As Elijah realized, we cannot hear or recognize God’s voice amidst the noise and clatter of the world.
In the Gospel reading of the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus had gone to spend a few minutes of solitude to mourn upon learning of the death of John the Baptist. But the crowd followed him and they soon turned into a multitude. Moved with compassion, Jesus forgot about his original intent, and instead ministered to the needs of the crowd. A very beautiful Bible translation of verse14 says: “when he had disembarked, he saw a great crowd, and he was moved with compassion for them to the depths of his being, and healed their sick.”
Next week on August 6th we celebrate a major feast day, called the “Transfiguration”. It is rooted in a historical incident mentioned in the New Testament gospels in which the hidden divinity of Jesus shines with white snow like brilliance from the human body of Jesus. This happened in the presence of the three major apostolic witnesses, Peter, James and John. These three were also the ones that were allowed to be with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus underwent his “agony in the garden”, the night before he died. This was frightening scene for the three, especially when two major Old Testament witnesses, Moses and Elijah, appeared with Jesus.
To nurture and promote the love of the Gospel of Christ.