Twenty-First Sunday: Who is Christ?

Who do people say that the Son of Man is? (Mt. 16:16)

You are the Christ, the Son of the living God (Mt. 16:16). St. Peter’s definitive response to Our Lord’s question is the foundation of the Christian faith; and it is no less the foundation of the Church’s life and mission. Christians are so called because we believe in the divinity of Christ; namely, that Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father (The Nicene Creed). This affirmation is the leaven of Christians; the teaching upon which all of the Church’s doctrines are based. It is the divinity of Our Lord that guarantees the reality of the Eucharist as the Sacrament of His Body and Blood. It is self-evident that if were Jesus not God the Eucharist would be but a symbol, at best.

St. Peter’s confession of faith is no less an act of worship, for if we acknowledge the truth of God’s existence it necessarily follows that we must also worship Him above all else. The true believer practises what he believes (St. Gregory the Great) and so, in the year 64 or 67 A.D., St Peter witnessed to the truth of his confession of faith and worship by his martyrdom. As did St. Paul who declared: Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (Phil. 3:8). These two champions of our faith and the multitude of believers who have followed Our Lord teach us by their example that worship must always involve the offering of a sacrifice. Self-giving, self-sacrificing love is the defining characteristic of the authentic, mature Christian and Our Lord has left us the Eucharistic Sacrifice both as an affirmation of the truth of His identity as the Son of the living God, and as the means by which we can grow in our knowledge of the mind and heart of Christ.

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gated of Hades will not prevail against it (Mt. 16:18). Our Lord established the Church on the rock of St. Peter’s confession: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God (Mt. 16:16). We who share the faith of St. Peter are members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grown into a holy temple in the Lord (Eph. 2:20-21). In first Epistle, St. Peter issues an invitation: Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 2: 4-5).

The invitation is timeless. Sunday after Sunday we make our way to assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass because we also have come to know and believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God and perhaps also because we may have strayed; and having returned to Our Lord, we have made our own these words of the Apostle Peter: Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God (Jn. 6: 68-69). This knowledge is the source of our never ending renewal and growth as disciples of Our Lord and as the Church of God. There is no need for novelties.The source of the Church’s vibrancy and effectiveness in calling all people to salvation in Christ in every age is the confession of faith that St. Peter made in the district of Caesarea Philippi: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God (Mt. 16:16).

Every heresy or error in the Church is ultimately bound to a denial of this truth about Christ Our Lord. We submit in faith to Christ Our Lord because He speaks to us not as a mere man but with His divine voice as God. If our history teaches us anything it teaches us that whenever our Christology (that is, our belief in the truth about Our Lord Jesus Christ) is impoverished in any way, the Church grows weak. Whenever this fundamental Christian truth is affirmed or reaffirmed the Church is reinvigorated. Belief in the divinity of Christ is the foundation upon which the whole structure of the Church is founded and for this reason St. Peter’s confession of faith is followed by the promise which makes us secure in our Catholic faith. And the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. (Mt. 16:18). Provided we remain steadfast in this faith, no enemy of the faith, whoever and wherever they be, will overwhelm us.

The divinity of Our Lord which we affirm in the Creed, in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, in the observance of His moral law and in our life of prayer and of piety is the foundation upon which we establish our life, first as individual Christians and then in the living communion of the Church. We are well aware that through the ages, including ours, men have attempted to fashion a different Christ. Some of these heresies are subtle and some might say inconsequential; for example, monothelitism, monophysitism, but they are errors nonetheless. In our age, men would rob Our Lord of His divinity and rank Him among other religious figures, representatives of a multiplicity of faiths, all of which are valid and willed by God. We know however that this cannot be true; and the evidence of history and life as men live it prove this to be erroneous.There are consequences to rejecting the True God. Some of these societies are marked by epicdysfunctionality and those once Catholic nations that rejected the promise made to St. Peter are now barely Christian.

The winds of change are gathering strength and they threaten us with a fierce autumn storm in the upcoming synod. While most Catholics are completely unaware of what is being proposed, thinking Catholics – and that adjective makes all the difference – thinking Catholics know that St. Peter’s confession of faith is the surest defence against all efforts to upend the Catholic Faith. Take to heart Our Lord’s own words: Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom’ (Lk. 12:32). And I, as your spiritual father, also assure you that provided we remain steadfast in the faith of St. Peter, we will not be led astray. It is Our Heavenly Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom in His Son, Our Saviour; in His immutable and eternal Word and in the Eucharist, His Precious Body and Blood. These are the assurance of our participation in the kingdom and so confidently we assert, if God be for us, who can be against us (Rom. 8:31)? Here, in the sacred assembly of the Mass, we affirm our faith in Christ the Son of the living God and with the help of His grace continue our ever so gradual transformation in Christfor the greater glory of God, the salvation of souls and the defeat of the enemies of the true faith.