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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Matthew 16, 13-23

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, 'Who do people say the Son of man is?'

And they said, 'Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.'

'But you,' he said, 'who do you say I am?'

Then Simon Peter spoke up and said, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'

Jesus replied, 'Simon son of Jonah, you are a blessed man! Because it was no human agency that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven.

So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my community. And the gates of the underworld can never overpower it.

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven: whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.'

Then he gave the disciples strict orders not to say to anyone that he was the Christ.

From then onwards Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day.

Then, taking him aside, Peter started to rebuke him. 'Heaven preserve you, Lord,' he said, 'this must not happen to you.'

But he turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because you are thinking not as God thinks but as human beings do.'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

After landing on the eastern shore and healing the blind man at Bethsaida, Jesus leads his disciples to Caesarea Philippi, on the northern border of Palestine, where the population was pagan. Perhaps Jesus had intended to stay alone with his disciples. Every community needs moments like these, not for an empty or false intimacy, but to grow in the Lord’s wisdom and love. It is in this moment that Jesus asks his disciples who the people say he is. He knows very well that many are eagerly anticipating the coming of the Messiah, a politically and militarily powerful man, who would liberate the people of Israel from Roman slavery. What they expected totally contrasted with Jesus’ mission of liberating the people from sin and evil. People’s opinions about Jesus varied. In Herod’s court some thought he was John the Baptist back from the dead. Others thought he was Elijah, while some said he was Jeremiah, who, according to beliefs at the time, was to reclaim the ark and its sacred objects that were hidden in Mount Nebo at the time of exile. But Jesus, after hearing their answers, goes straight to the disciples’ heart and asks: "But who do you say that I am?" Jesus needs his disciples to be in sync with him, that they have a "common feeling" with him and that they know his true identity. Peter answers on behalf of them all and confesses his faith in him that he is the Messiah. He receives, then, immediately from Jesus a blessing. Peter, along with that modest group of disciples, belongs to those "little ones" to whom the Father reveals what is hidden since the foundations of the earth. And Simon, a person like all the rest, made of "flesh and blood", receives a new vocation from the encounter with Jesus, a new task and responsibility: to be a rock, a support for the others, with the power to bind new friendships and loose the bonds of slavery that impede others from following the Gospel. Peter’s response, given in the name of all the others, comforts Jesus and permits him to go toward that true intimacy that is communion with Him and his mystery. Jesus opens his heart to them and reveals what end he will face in Jerusalem: the Messiah is not powerful, but weak, and he will be killed. Peter does not understand what Jesus says and even thinks him a bit crazed. And spurred on by instinct, certainly not by the faith with which he spoke earlier, he tries to dissuade Jesus from his mission and journey toward Jerusalem. In truth, it is he who has much further to go before he understands the Lord, as we all do. And Jesus says to him: "Get behind me, Satan!" Jesus is telling him that he needs to put himself back on the path of following the Gospel.

Memory of the Church