Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans is one that is filled with rich teachings and images as is the portion we hear today. While describing the great love of God in sending his Son to save both Jew and Gentile he breaks into a prayer about the greatness of God. In Paul’s letters it is common for him to go into prayer as he writes about the experience of God in our lives. This no doubt comes from his own experience on the road to Damascus. When we begin to reflect on the depth of love that God has for us and all that God does for us out of that love it can certainly move our hearts and souls to prayer and even song. I think of the couples I have meet celebrating their Golden, sixtieth or seventieth wedding anniversaries, as they recollect their weddings so many years ago they are noticeably filled with joy and are able to share even the smallest of details. These are beautiful moments that are never forgotten and the love we are meant to experience from God is far greater than these, and as Saint Paul writes cannot be adequately described, let alone understood.
In the Gospel we have the beautiful profession of faith of Peter proclaiming to Jesus and the others; “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This was a bold move on the part of Peter and no doubt came from his experience of Jesus. He had become so confident in who Jesus is that he was willing to publicly profess it to Jesus in front of the other apostles. This incident shows Peter’s growth of faith in Jesus. It wasn’t long before this that Jesus walked on water to the apostles while they were out in their boat. He called Peter to walk on water but Peter’s faith waivered and he began to sink. With Peter’s profession in this passage it could be said that Peter finally did walk on water, if not literally he did so figuratively with this bold statement of who Jesus is.
The readings provide us with the opportunity to reflect on who Jesus is. Like Paul we can recall how the Lord has touched our lives. We might have times we can recall in which we were touched in such a powerful way that it strengthened our faith or even brought us from no faith or a weak faith to a stronger faith. An experience that changed the direction of our lives in that it led us to take our faith more seriously. These are moments that could be buried within us as time moves by, but they are encounters that we should pause to remember and celebrate. The recollection of these moments gives us strength at challenging times throughout our lives. When Saint Paul was rejected and imprisoned, he no doubt recalled his conversion experience which strengthened him and renewed his faith, hope and joy. Peter’s profession of faith in the context of his earlier failure of walking on water is a lesson for us to keep growing in faith.
This all comes down to the question Jesus posed to the Apostles today “Who do you say that I am?” Like Peter may we be able to profess that; “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And like Saint Paul may we be able to pray; “For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.