Nm 20:1-13; Ps 95:1,2,6-9; Mt 16:13-23
Saint Dominic designed a lifestyle for beggars who would preach. In his original design the friars would spend half the time at home in prayer and half the time on the road bearing the good news to those who had forgotten the mighty deeds of the Lord. His order was founded during the early days of reformation and revolution. He and his brothers reached out to rescue their brothers and sisters from heresy and rebellion.
At the Rock of Meribah the Rock of Salvation was tested. All joyful shouts abound in the hearts of those who come into the presence of the Savior—to give thanks—loud and boisterous praise fills the assembly. All who gather bow down in worship and kneel before the Lord who made us and shepherds us still. From the escape till today the people set free from slavery still test the Lord, the Liberator. As with Moses at Meribah so, too, with us today and tomorrow, day in and day out, we test the Lord. We don’t get what we want, the way we want it, and when we want it; so we doubt, question, and curse our God and his servants. God’s plan to save us seems to be an obstacle to our salvation. The Lord Jesus tests his disciples to see if they know more about him than the crowds. The only one who passes the test is the first one to object to the Father’s plan for salvation. In this first passion prediction the Lord Jesus finds only opposition among his disciples to the mystery of the cross and resurrection. Just as Moses was rebuked at Meribah so Saint Peter is rebuked at Caesarea Philippi.
The rock-solid resolve to liberate the slaves and to form a nation is not crushed in the heart of the Lord as his people test him at Meribah. In the desert of Zin, the community of Israel was without the most basic need, water. They summoned a council against Moses and Aaron. Their complaint was not unfamiliar. “Would that we too had perished with our kinsmen in the Lord’s presence!” We would rather die that suffer any longer! This is too much to ask of us! Moses and Aaron had recourse to prayer; they prostrated themselves at the entrance of the tent of meeting. The glory of the Lord appeared and God spoke a word of command. A word that tested even Moses. “In their presence order the rock to yield its waters.” The Lord told his servant to speak to the rock, to order the rock, and Moses struck the rock twice with his staff. Moses was tired of being doubted, sick and tired of the rebellious people so he, too, disobeyed the Lord. Water gushed out in abundance for the doubting assembly, but in response to the hardness of his heart Moses received just punishment. The Lord struck his heart with these words, “Because you were not faithful to me in showing forth my sanctity before the children of Israel, you shall not lead this community into the land I will give them.” The heart of Moses was harder than the rock at Meribah. He, too, had to be softened by the Lord’s sanctity. The faithful Lord does not waste his words, and he expects faithfulness from his servants.
At Caesarea Philippi, the disciples of the Lord Jesus were questioned by their Master, “Who do people say that I am? Who do you say that I am?” After all his teaching and after all his healings even his disciples could only see what the crowds saw—a prophet. The only one who had some faith greater than the masses was Simon son of Jonah. The Lord Jesus gives him a new name—Peter, the rock. With this new name came a new role and a new identity. He and his faith are the solid foundation upon which Christ would build his Church. So faithful is Christ that even the netherworld shall not prevail against it, and the power to bind and loosen is given to it through Saint Peter. This new community, solid in faith, is to be the place where all men and women would encounter the wonderful signs of salvation in the sacraments. These saving actions would gain full power and strength through the death and resurrection of Christ. The mystery of the cross tests Christ and his Church throughout history. Saint Peter was tested by this first prediction of the Passion, and he failed the test. His faith would be again tested at the courtyard of Pilate, and he would fail again. On the shore of the sea, the Risen Christ would again test Saint Peter; there he would not fail. We, too, are tested by the mystery of the cross at every Eucharist. Today we hear the voice of the Lord. Today will we harden our hearts?