The 15th Week of Lock-Down begins on Monday, it may well be the last! As restrictions are eased, we hope and pray that there will not be a resurgence of the virus!
I continue to say Mass in a closed St. Cecilia’s Church for all your intentions and for specific Intentions. And we continue to pray for the brave workers who continue to work through the crisis; NHS Staff, utility workers, supermarket staff, bus drivers, police, Post Office workers, refuse collectors and many others who are putting their lives at risk for our sake.
First Reading: Acts 12:1-11
Responsorial Psalm: Ps.33:2-9
Response: ‘The Lord set me free from all my fears’.
Second Reading: Timothy 4:6-8,17-18
Gospel: Matt: 16:13-19
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he put this question to his disciples: ‘Who do the people say the Son of Man is?’
The above passage is taken from one of the defining moments in Jesus’ life; the Confession of Faith at Caesarea Philippi in Upper Galilee, near the foot of Mount Hermon, not far from where the Jordan flows into the Sea of Galilee. Mt. Hermon is 7,300ft high with three peaks and is often covered in snow, a very valuable asset in a dry area. The proximity of Mt Hermon to this incident, (Caesarea Philippi is just below Mt. Hermon), has often been suggested as the Mount of the Transfiguration. Not Mt. Tabor!
The First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles gives us an account of the miraculous freeing of Peter from gaol when imprisoned by King Herod, the Tetrarch. Showing that God had other plans for Peter! In the Second Reading in St. Paul’s letter to Timothy, who later became Bishop of Ephesus, Paul says, he is ‘nearing the end of his life’.
The Gospel account of the Profession of Faith at Caesarea Philippi is one of the most contentious passages of scripture in the New Testament! Catholics have always seen this event is Christ setting Peter has the head and leader of the Church Jesus had come to found, and that this applied to his successors. But other Christians have long argued that, yes, Peter was proclaimed leader, then, but it did not follow that Peter’s successors would also be Head of the Church! Arguments are still ongoing.
However, as time was to show, Peter and Paul would both end up in Rome at the end of their lives. Peter went there, presumably, because it was the centre of Empire and if the faith was to spread, Rome was the place to be. We know that St. Mark accompanied Peter to Rome, and wrote his Gospel there.
Paul ended up in Rome as he asked his case to be heard by Caesar, when he got into trouble in Jerusalem and was taken to Court by some Pharisees. It was in Rome that St. Paul wrote his masterpiece, the Letter to the Romans.
They both lived in Rome for some years after this, until they were both martyred within three years of each other. Did they meet and speak to each other? No one knows. It seems a bit unlikely to me. Peter, the uneducated fisherman from a remote part of Israel or Palestine, called Galilee, where the inhabitants were despised in Jerusalem, coupled with the fact the Paul was a member of the ruling class at the time, a Pharisee, well educated, with a great dynamism and power of oratory and knowledge of the Scriptures. As well as the fact that both were involved in a great argument in Jerusalem, often called ‘Jerusalem I’ as it was the first General Meeting of the Church at the time, re the circumcision of the Gentiles! Was it necessary or not? Peter lost the argument, but, we simply don’t know if they met in Rome or not.
But what we do know is that they both said ‘Yes’ to the Lord’s question, which followed on from the question of ‘Who do people say that I am?’; viz. ‘Who do you say that I am?. Peter answered this by his spending his whole life as leader of the Church and Paul by the power of his oratory, missionary journeys and his writings. They both acknowledged Jesus as God and crowned their lives by the wondrous things that they said and did and said, and, finally, by their martyrdoms.
Which brings us to the question: ‘Who do we say Jesus is?’ Can we say with Peter: ‘You are the Christ, the son of the living God’, and live our lives accordingly?