Gospel Reflection 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
New Names, New Missions
In the bible a new name meant a new mission. Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do people say I am?” Names of former heroes were recalled. “But who do you say I am?” Simon, son of Jonah spoke up. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This was the first time that Jesus was given the new name, Christ. His personal name was Jesus, and this new name, Christ, identified him as the Anointed One. To the Jews this meant the promised Messiah. In the Old Testament people were anointed unto three important roles of leadership, as prophet, priest or king. A prophet’s role was to reveal God’s presence and action in our lives. A priest was to mediate between people and God through leading their worship. A king was anointed to serve the people with responsibility and care. Now, all three roles are found in the one person, Jesus, so he is called the Christ, the Anointed One.
Having identified Jesus as the Christ, now it was the turn of Simon to receive his new name which would express his new role. Jesus recognised that the very special faith of Simon was a gift of God. “It was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. So now I say to you: You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church”. Peter means a rock. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had spoken of building a house on solid rock. The first foundation rock of the house of the Church would be Peter. He is promised the keys of the kingdom. Keys represent authority. Then Jesus looked to the future. “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it.” In other words, the powers of evil will never conquer this Church. Never! What a wonderful promise! After the resurrection, the Risen Lord returned to appoint Peter as the new shepherd of the flock. “Feed my lambs, feed my sheep.” Peter now represents Christ the Good Shepherd, leading the flock. This moment of recognising Jesus as the Christ came to Simon Peter as a wonderful gift of faith bestowed by God. Nothing shows up the shallowness of faith so much as the careless use of these sacred names, Jesus the Christ.
Our naming day was at our baptism. This baptismal name ought to have a Christian connection. In addition to our name, immediately after baptism with water we were anointed with chrism to signify our union with Christ as our prophet, priest and king. In a word, we were Christened, that is Christ-ened. As prophets we seek to recognise God’s presence in our lives. We share in the priesthood of Christ by taking part at Mass in glorifying the Father through Jesus, with him and in him. We share in the kingship of Christ by working for a world guided by God’s law in respect for life, in justice and sharing of the world’s resources. If we live up to the grace of baptism, we will be the salt of the earth and light of the world.
Enlightened and encouraged by the light of the gospel, we pray for Pope Francis, the successor of Saint Peter as the Bishop of Rome: as Peter was blessed in his faith, so may his successor guide the Church with divine wisdom.
Lord, protect your Church and never allow the forces of evil to infiltrate the community of believers.