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Reflection On The Gospel By Fr. Isidore Clarke, OP.

Reflection On The Gospel By Fr. Isidore Clarke, OP.

Greetings from Fr. Isidore Clarke.Today I'm going to reflect on the Gospel for 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, (Matt. 16. 13-20).

What's in a name?Well, we use a name to distinguish one person from another. Our names give us a personal identity. Titles, such as 'Prime Minister' or 'Prior' denote someone's role in the community.

In today's Gospel we first see Simon identifying Jesus' role and status as the 'Christ, the Son of the living God.'Jesus remarked that the Father Himself, not human reason -had led Simon to recognise Jesus as the Christ –the promised Messiah and, what is more, to recognize Him as the Son of the Living God!

In response to Peter's marvellous tribute to Him Jesus immediately changed Simon's name to 'Peter' and this was for a very, very important reason.

A change in someone's name or title is significant.Taking her husband's surname denotes that a bride has married a certain man, and has assumed the status of being his wife.And it used to be the custom for us Dominicans to be given a new name when we received the habit of the Order. 'In the world you were known as….In the Order you shall be known as…' That denoted that we had embarked on a new dimension of our Christian vocations.

So, when Jesus changed Simon's name to 'Peter' He was indicating that the disciple was being given a new and special role. The Greek for Simon's new name, 'Peter,' means 'rock.'Peter was to provide the solid foundation on which Jesus would build His community of followers –the Church.Not only would the Spirit of Truth guide Peter and his successors, the Popes, in protecting us, the Church, from the shifting sands of uncertainty and error concerning the essentials of Christ's teaching.Jesus guaranteed that His Church would never be destroyed – no matter how much it would be persecuted.

The image of a rock was frequently used in the Old Testament.It suggested a solid foundation for a building.The Patriarch, Abraham, was the rock on which God's people were founded, (cf. Is. 51. 1). Above all, God Himself was frequently seen as the foundation-rock of His people, (cf. Psalm 18.2).Always this image suggests the solid, underlying stability, necessary for development.Never does the image of a rock imply a boulder, crushing God's people. That would be an abuse of power!

Next, Jesus defines the role of Peter as being a door-keeper.This image should be seen as liberating. The Church is meant to be welcoming and hospitable, as was Jesus.The door-keeper should use his keys to let people in, not lock them out.

The Church, led by Peter, exercises this ministry primarily through the Sacraments of Baptism and Reconciliation.Through Baptism we are welcomed as members of the Christian family, sharing God's own life.The Sacrament of Reconciliation renews our Christian commitment, as Jesus forgives us when we confess our sins to a priest.Only unrepentant sinners, who don't want to enter God's kingdom, would be excluded by their own choice.

In John's Gospel, ch. 21, the Risen Lord appoints Peter as leader, using the image of shepherd.With its emphasis on compassionate caring, this image especially appeals to Pope Francis.As in today's Gospel, this appointment is based on Peter's faith in Jesus, and his love for Him.This he had to renew, after disowning Jesus three time.Then, and only then, did Jesus Christ give Peter the responsibility of feeding His flock with sound doctrine and the sacraments.

The tasks of being both the rock on which Christ would build His Church, as well as the Chief Shepherd of His Flock, entrusted to Peter, has been handed on to Peter's successors, the Popes.What an awesome burden for any man to have to carry!Even though he is supported and guided by the Spirit of Truth, the Pope still remains very human. He certainly deserves and needs the support of the whole Christian community, our loyalty and our prayers, not our criticisms.

God bless you all.

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