Fr. Al Risdorfer’s Homily for August 27th the 21st Sunday of Ordinal Time – Dialogue Sunday


· Isaiah 22:19-23

· Psalm 138:1-2, 2-3, 6, 8

· Romans 11:33-36

· Matthew 16:13-20

Set Up: I wanted to offer this lesson as a dialogue because as you have heard me say before, the question Jesus asks of his disciple, I believe is the central question for all Christians: “Who do you say that I am?” I believe it is important for each of us to answer it.

No other religious leader or founder asks this. Not Moses, Abraham, or David, not Mohamed, not the Buddha, not Confucius, not any of the protestant reformers, not Joseph Smith, not Guru Nanak Dev Ji or whoever founded Hinduism…no one but Jesus. For all the others they point to their revelation or message or ideas, but Jesus wants to know from us who is He to us? Jesus wants to know the nature of the relationship we want to have with him.

When Jesus asks his disciples this question, remember the context. They had witnessed Jesus healing lepers and others and even see Him raise the kittle girl from the dead. They listened to His many parables. They heard Him define the Beatitudes and showing us how to pray in the Lord's prayer. They experienced His calming the storm on the lake and then later in another storm, walking on water to them in the boat. They watched as he feed first 5,000 then 4,000. Through it all, His constant call to them was to have deeper and deeper faith in Him - faith that He isGod’s Promised One.

Each of us too has heard these stories and many more. In addition to what we’ve read, I would hope each of us has at one time or another experienced Jesus in our lives.

Question #1: So, I ask you. Who is Jesus then to you?

Follow up Question: What are the implications of how you see Jesus in your life? If we say He is truly “mashiach” – the Messiah, the Son of the Living God as Peter says, then what does that say about His teaching as recorded in the Gospels? How should we react to His teachings?

Question #2: Why is getting clear on what His followers believe about Him so important to Jesus?

Follow up Question: Here again what are the implications for us?

One final thought: About Peter as the Rock. (ref David Jackson from DignityUSA).

This passage has been traditionally used by the Catholic Church to define the “primacy of Peter” and thus the primacy of subsequent Popes, including the doctrine by Vatican I concerning papal infallibility. The final authority, the Romans say, rests with the pope. Our job is to listen and obey. But let’s take a moment to unpack this passage – just as we did in our book club with the “Clobber Passages.”

“Petros” (which translates as “rock”) actually counters the worship for which Caesarea Philippi was known: a popular sanctuary to the god of nature, Pan, with a large rock-faced cliff. The author of Matthew was using Jesus’ blessing of Peter to distinguish Christians from the pagan worship of Romans, and to promote “rock-like” fidelity from Peter and the whole community of disciples.

Such fidelity was needed because of the verses immediately following today’s gospel: “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that … he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” This revelation of the type of messiah – a suffering Messiah – that Jesus would be signals a major turning point in the Gospel. And recall that after the first Passion prediction, Peter rebukes Jesus and in turn is rebuked by Jesus “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me”.

Vatican II not only broadened the doctrine of infallibility to include Ecumenical Councils and the infallible teaching of the whole college of bishops, but it also highlighted the laity, giving increasing emphasis to the “sensus fidelium,” (sense of the faithful) - the wisdom of the Tradition held by the church as a body. According to this doctrine, revelation also works from the ground up, from the beliefs of the faithful - all of us - as a whole, not only as understood through the teachings of Jesus and the Bible, but also as inspired by the Holy Spirit, who guides the faithful within and perhaps beyond the Church’s Magisterium. Our understanding of discipleship and Church must grow with our lived experiences in the world.

I believe we would be surprised to learn that Matt. 18:18 repeats 16:19 (you (singular) are rock) except that the verbs are now plural. Jesus says to the disciples as a group, “Truly I say to you (pl.) whatever you (pl.) may bind upon the earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you (pl.) loose upon the earth will have been loosed in heaven.” That means we - all the followers of Jesus - are given the same promise given to Peter in 16:19. We, as the Church, are rock and have the same powers of binding and loosing, the same interpretative gift of discernment, the same capacity to forgive and free.

As members of the Progressive Catholic Church, we have to claim these powers given to all the Body of Christ? We need to use our sacred powers to free others from shame and guilt and to live responsibly with our own divinely offered capabilities.

All of which may be to rephrase the question Jesus asks at the beginning of today’s gospel: Who is Jesus to me? … And am I willing to be that same Jesus to everyone else? Let us pray that we do so.

Amen! ++