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  • Writer's pictureFr. Paul MacNeil

Homily for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time - Deacon Gunther

An organist was practicing one day in a great church in Europe. A man came up to the organist and asked if he could play. The organist looked at him and thought to himself I shouldn’t let this man play just look at him, he is unshaven, his clothes are soiled, he looks like a homeless vagrant. So, he told the man no. But the unkempt stranger asked again and again. Finally, the organist let him play thinking he couldn’t play very long for what does someone like him know about organs. Well, his fingers danced over the keyboard in a way the organist hadn’t heard in his lifetime. The stranger played on and on. The organist was spellbound. When the stranger got up to leave, the organist could not contain himself and shouted … "Who are you … what’s your name??" As the stranger slowly walked away, he turned over his shoulder and said … "My name is Felix Mendelsohn." The organist gasped. He said to himself … “I did not recognize him; I almost did not let the master play."

Felix Mendelssohn was a German composer, pianist, organist, and conductor. Mendelssohn's "Wedding March" written in 1842 is one of the best known of the pieces from his suite of music to Shakespeare's play “A Midsummer Night's Dream". It is one of the most frequently used wedding marches even now.

In today’s Gospel we hear Peter’s confession of faith. Unlike the organist in our story, he recognizes and identifies Jesus as “the Christ the Son of the living God.”

It’s interesting to note that this takes place in Caesarea Philippi. This city was dedicated to Caesar who had given himself the title “Son of God”. Given this context, Peter’s words are even more important and are clear that Jesusnot Caesar is the Son of God. When we confess that “Jesus is Lord, the Son of God”, we along with Peter are giving Jesus our complete allegiance.

In the Gospel Jesus continues to ask us “Who do you say that I am?” And where does the answer come from? Look at Peter, his answer did not come from years of Catholic education nor from Church doctrine. The Gospel tells us that it was revealed to him by God. In other words, it came from within. Even with all of Peter’s imperfections he opened himself up to the flow of God’s love. In that same way God waits for each one of us to be open to this gift. And by the virtue of our baptisms, we are all called to be the rocks of foundation for Christ.

Note that Jesus entrusted responsibility for his future Church to someone who seemed questionable that he would even be able to take on this great responsibility. Although Jesus commissions Peter to be responsible for the Church that same mandate is given to all his disciples from then on. As followers of Christ, as his disciples, we are called not to be perfect, but to be part of the growing foundation that Christ uses to build a community that loves God and loves and serves others. Through the way we serve others we show who Christ is to those around us.

Peter is the first of the 12 to recognize that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” No human being told this to Peter, he came to this knowledge by the gift of God. Then Jesus blesses him with the words … “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church.” Meaning Jesus intended to build the Church on Simon Peter, an individual with human weaknesses, but willing to allow God’s power to be at work even in his frailty.

Peter’s profession of faith is the rock on which the Church is founded.

And our faith continues to be the foundation on which God is building his Kingdom through the spirit of service and love that Jesus intended.

Like Peter we come to realize that Christ is more than a teacher or a prophet. He is a loving presence still alive and at work within us. As Christians, as disciples of Christ, it is often good to pause and hear Jesus ask us “Who do you say that I am?” That is a very profound and intimate question. Responding to it requires real honesty, love, and commitment. And requires discernment on what it means for us that Jesus is the “Christ, the Son of the living God”.

Jesus wanted to know what his followers knew of his true identity. Once that identity was given, Jesus affirmed it and then remained quiet. But our identity in Christ is meant to shine and lead others to God. And our proclamation of Jesus as the Son of God, the Messiah comes with responsibility. Through our participation in the community of the Church, and our actions, in the broader community, our faith becomes a living faith.

In the same way the organist in our story did not recognize Mendelssohn, do you and I recognize Christ in the kind deeds of others? Do we see Christ in the words of comfort offered during trouble? Do we see Christ in someone who we might regard as less or not as good as we are? Peter saw the divinity in the man Jesus. Hopefully we can still feel the divinity of Christ today!

Perhaps this week examine your relationship to the Church. Think about what does Church mean to you? Pray about becoming more involved in your parish by joining a small faith group or any one of the many ministries that will joyfully welcome you. May God Bless all you disciples!

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