The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe
Week XXI, Year A 21 August 2011
Isaiah 22:15,19-23 // Romans 11:33-36 // Matthew 16:13-20
Last week in our Gospel, a Canaanite woman surprised Jesus Christ with her incredible faith when she engaged the Lord in a conversation for the healing of her daughter possessed by a demon. Today I invite you to let God surprise you with His immense love and mercy for all of us in the same manner that Jesus surprised Peter in today’s Gospel.
From the foreign territory of Tyre and Sidon, Jesus returned to Israel today with His disciples via the region of Caesarea Philippi where He asked them “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that Iam?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mt.16:13-19)
As I prayed over today’s Gospel this past week, I strongly felt the element of surprise from God as I realized that this scene is not merely about the primacy of Peter as first Pope and head of the Church that we usually preach about. It is also about our “primacy” in the heart of God despite our many sins and failures.
We are Simon Peter, a “rock” foundation entrusted with so much blessings and responsibilities, including the keys to the “kingdom of heaven” when we are able to truthfully answer Jesus’ question because to know the Lord is to enter into a personal relationship with Him. Anyone with a very sinful past like St. Paul in our second reading would feel so surprised too to be loved and trusted by God: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways! For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom.11:33,36)
Since his conversion to Christianity, St. Paul had been surprised daily by the many great things God had done to him, convincing him of a love that is deeply personal and not just generic. When we allow God to surprise us with His kindness and goodness, things change for the best for us no matter how bad our situation is.
Let’s see, and hope you would be surprised, some of the surprising revelations by Jesus when He praised Peter for his remarkable answer that day in Caesarea Philippi:
First, God is in us because He speaks through us. He reveals Himself right in our hearts because He dwells there as Jesus said “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” Here we are also reminded of Gabriel’s greeting to Mother Mary at the Annunciation of the birth of Christ: “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” (Lk.1:28) Jesus indeed is the Emmanuel, the “God-is-with-us”. Don’t look down on yourself; always see yourself the way God sees you, a beloved child of His, His indwelling! Every one of us is blessed in spite of our sins and shortcomings.
Second, God believes in us, making us a “rock” solid foundation upon which to build a community, be it a family, a parish, or a corporation. We are all “Simon Peter” in a sense because we can build and lead communities that would journey with Jesus with the Cross into eternal life. A lot often, we always feel so bad at how we do things that we could not trust our own abilities, our very selves; yet, God finds us to be trustworthy of nurturing a community, of relationships, or any undertaking that would eventually lead people out of misery and sin, pains and sufferings.
And to top it all, as a surprise to the surprising rock foundation He had made of us, God entrusts us with “authority” in the belief that we could really do our jobs and calling in life! These are the keys to the kingdom of heaven that Jesus gives us every day as we go on with our being rock foundation. Have you realized what a great honor for you to be trusted by God as a driver, a doctor, a nurse, a businessman, a husband, a housewife/homemaker, maybe a priest or church worker who in one way or the other does the work of God, bringing joy and comfort to many people?
Every authority is always a mandate from God, a sharing in His task of helping the needy as shown in our first reading: Eliakim was chosen to replace Shebna as King of Israel on whose shoulder would rest “the key of the house of David.”(Is.22:22) Shebna had fallen from disgrace due to his evil ways and the unknown Eliakim was catapulted to the throne by God’s grace. He too must have been surprised at why was he chosen by God!
But that’s the way it is in this life: God is full of surprises, surprises that delight us, that give us a “kick” to do more after the initial fright because it is in our weaknesses that God empowers us. It is in our poverty where God’s riches become truly enriching.
Toward the end of their discussions that day in Caesarea Philippi, Jesus “strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.” It was quite a disturbing surprise why Matthew had to report it when all the secrecy about Jesus being the Christ had been revealed when he wrote his gospel account. This discretion applies even today because to be able to truthfully answer Jesus’ question of “who do you say that I am?” requires more of our feelings and experiences rather than of our thinking and explanations. That is the biggest surprise of God: we have to experience Jesus first in a very personal way to be surprised by His love and friendship. This is the purpose of the World Youth Day started by Blessed Pope John Paul more than 30 years ago.
Today our world is marked with so much sophistication and certainties in science and technology that people try to apply them even into their lives. Nobody wants to be surprised anymore and spirituality often comes under severe tests and even mistrust; if not, anything of the soul is brought down to more realistic and understandable level like the “arts”. Their dictum is “only matter matters”.
The sense of wonder, the sense of awe, the sense of surprise is said to be the spark of genius always because it is also the very beginning of the experience of God. No wonder, the most simple like children and the most creative like artists (in the truest sense) are the ones who surprise us most because they always allow themselves to be surprised by the world around them. And it is no wonder too that they are the most to touch our inner selves with their antics and remarks, paintings or poems because their sense of surprise and wonder keep them in touch with God, with their true selves, and with life itself.
When Jesus asked His disciples that day on what do people said about Him, they readily answered Him. But when He asked them the more personal “who do you say that I am?”, it was Peter who initially allowed himself to be surprised by God with his remarkable answer. Later, the disciples and those who followed after them found and experienced the right answer to the Lord’s query and must have been so surprised now that they are with Him in the kingdom of heaven.
Lord Jesus Christ, give us the grace of being empty and be surprised always by presence. Amen.
Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Parish of St. John the Evangelist
Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan 3022