There is much that could be said about the confession of St. Peter. The easiest and most obvious point is that here we have Jesus himself establishing Peter as the first pope – the rock upon which the church will be built. Peter clearly rises in scripture as the obvious leader of the apostles, and his name is mentioned more times than all of the other apostles combined. This is not the only proof that we have in scriptures about the authority of the pope and the establishment of the hierarchy of the church, but I am going to leave that point to another homily.
We heard St. Peter in the gospel today confess very clearly the true identity of the Lord. He says to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” And he gets the answer right. That is exactly who Jesus is, and Jesus tells him a very important fact as well: flesh and blood did not reveal Jesus’s identity to Peter. God himself did that.
The point that I want to make is much more spiritual than just teaching about the authority of the pope. That is important, but what does this gospel mean for my everyday life? What can it tell me about God and my relationship with him?
The first point that we can get from this gospel is probably the most important – it is that ONLY GOD CAN TELL US WHO WE REALLY ARE. Before Peter met Jesus, Peter was just a fisherman. He had a family – he probably lived the life of a normal, poor Jewish worker. No one would have ever known his name had Jesus never met him.
But Jesus DID meet him.
And not only did Jesus meet him, but Jesus actually changed his very identity. Jesus changed his name. You cannot truly meet Jesus without being fundamentally changed. When Jesus saw that Peter understood who he truly was – when Peter accepted Jesus as Lord and savior – Jesus gave him a new mission in life. He made him the first pope of the church. Jesus altered his identity. Jesus basically told him, “No more are you a fisherman. You are far more than that. Now you are the leader of the apostles. I myself give you this new calling.” And you might think to yourself: Sure, that’s fine for Peter the first pope, but what does that mean for ME?
Y’all, this is such an important point for our spiritual lives. And I know that there are a number of kids from the junior high here this evening, and I really want you to understand this point.
STORY. I have said this before and revealed to you some of my story before – but before I really accepted Jesus as the Lord of my life I had intended on a political career. I had intended on having a wife and family. But then again, St. Peter intended to be a fisherman, didn’t he? But I finally surrendered to TRULY ASKING GOD WHO I WAS, AND WHAT HE MEANT FOR ME TO BE, and WHAT HE WANTED ME TO DO. And as you can see, I received a very different calling than I thought. JUST LIKE PETER, when I told Jesus, “You are the Christ – you are the son of the living God” and began to truly ask Him to give me a mission in life, He gave me this mission and he changed even literally changed my name when I went to the monastery. As far as this point goes, St. Peter and I experienced the same thing.
I am not saying that if you truly recognize Jesus as God and Savior that he will call you to priesthood or religious life. Absolutely not! But who knows what he will call you to do? He might reveal to you a mission that you never thought existed. He did for me. He did this for Peter. He did this to really all of his saints, and he wants to do the same for us.
Think about it this way: Jesus tells Peter, “Flesh and blood did not reveal to you my identity, but my heavenly father did.” Only God can give you the real answers about your life. Only God can reveal to you who he really is. You will not be able to figure it out on your own. That takes PRAYER most of all. That takes going to confession and staying close to the Eucharist. In this way, Jesus is just like any other person that we want to make friends with:
UNLESS YOU TALK TO HIM, YOU WILL NOT GET TO KNOW HIM.
But Jesus is different than any other friend that we have. The differences is that Jesus knows who we really are. Our friends have clues, but none of them have the whole story. Let me put it to you this way. I like to teach this point with a little image of heaven. (Before you were born, when God called a meeting with the angels to decide what sort of person you were going to be: how tall, how smart, what gifts and talents you were going to have, what parents you were going to have and, most importantly, what sort of mission and destiny you were going to have in this life – WERE YOU AT THAT MEETING? Let me answer that question for you – NO YOU WERE NOT. You weren’t even born yet. The secret of who you are was decided at that meeting in heaven. Do you think that you are going to be able to figure out what that mission is all on your own?
We hear this very clearly in our first reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. He writes:
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!
For who has known the mind of the Lord
or who has been his counselor?
If you aren’t convinced of this, let me share you some other hints in scripture about this secret identity that you have. Let me read you what it says in the Book of Revelation. The context is St. John telling us what some of our reward will be if we follow Jesus:
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a NEW NAME written on the stone which no one knows except him who receives it.’
Did you really hear that? A new name? A secret name that nobody else knows? What is this all about?
If that doesn’t convince you than listen to this. This is what the prophet Isaiah tells us will happen if we listen to God:
The nations shall see your vindication,
and all the kings your glory;
and you shall be called by a new name
which the mouth of the LORD will give.
IT DOESN’T GET MORE CLEAR THAN THAT – we are supposed to be given a new name, and this new name is supposed to reveal who we really are – it is supposed to the secret to our destiny, and our mission in this life. And how do we find it out?
Isaiah says it very clearly; this new name is ONLY GIVEN BY THE MOUTH OF THE LORD. We can’t figure it out on our own. My friends, we were not at that meeting in heaven. We don’t have the answer of who we truly are, but that doesn’t mean we might not get some hints about it. And here is the scary part – we can say “no” to that secret name. We can say “no” to that destiny that God has for us. That is what “free will” really means.
Jesus knows that secret name, and he is ready to tell us who we are if we are ready to accept who he really is: he is the Christ, he is the son of the living God.
Do you want to know who you really are? Maybe it’s high time that we truly, honestly ASKED HIM!!