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Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 23, 2020

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 23, 2020

Deacon Anthony J. Cincotta

Assistant Director for Retreat Ministry


Book of the Prophet Isiah 22:19-23

Psalm 138

Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans

Matthew 16:13-20


On October 16, 1978, two days after the Papal Conclave had commenced, white smoke was seen coming from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel announcing that a Pope had been chosen.  About one half-hour later it was announced that a Polish Cardinal had been chosen as Pope and that he was taking the name of John Paul II.  For the most part the crowd in Saint Peter’s Square was stunned.  A Pole was elected Pope?  Then, a few minutes later, Pope John Paul II appeared and speaking in perfect Italian greeted the people.  The huge throng of people went wild!

It’s interesting to me that of the last fifteen Popes (prior to John Paul II) only three were favorites before their elevation (Leo XII, Pius XII and Paul VI.)  In fact, John Paul II wasn’t even mentioned as a possible contender.  After the announcement of his election as Pope the media had a very difficult time finding out biographical information about this Cardinal from Poland to pass on to the world.

Just as the media usually gets it wrong concerning a future Pope, in Jesus’ day many people also got in wrong about Jesus.  “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”  The disciples replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  It was Peter who got it right by saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  Then, Jesus did, in our modern day terminology, proclaimed Peter the first Pope.  Just as those who are elected Pope are almost always a surprise, Jesus’ choice of Peter was also a surprise.    

We heard two weeks ago that when Peter tried to walk on the sea toward Jesus his faith was not strong enough and he began to sink.  When he was put under pressure during Jesus’ trial he denied our Lord three times.  Perhaps the media would have suggested that the apostle John would be the odds on favorite instead of Peter as the first Pope.  Or even Matthew would be a better choice; after all Matthew was at least educated and not jus an “ordinary fisherman.”  

During Saint Luke’s account of the Last Supper Jesus said that after Peter had recovered his faith he was to strengthen his brother apostles.  We could interpret this as the role of the Pope that is to strengthen the faith of the Church.  In the Gospel of Saint John, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him and three times Peter replied that he did. Our Lord then asked Peter to “look after my sheep.”  Peter had no idea that he was taking a crash course in “POPE 101.”

Jesus knew the Church needed a Pope to strengthen its faith and to feed it spiritually.  In our day, many have lost their sense of right and wrong due to drifting away from God.  When we drift away from God we tend to drift away from what is the only source of truth and so we lose our ability to make sense out of right and wrong, or better yet, good and evil.  All of this results in a sense that we can do what we like, any time we like it and have an “anything goes” attitude.  Having said that, we must ask ourselves have we become people of the world or are we people of God?

When our Lord Jesus was on trial before Pilate He said He had come to bear witness to the truth and all who are on the side of truth listen to him.  Pilate asked, “What is truth?”   Can you hear members of your family, co-workers, entertainment and sports personalities, and especially political figures asking that question?  Let’s not sugar coat it!  We all know that there is right and wrong as well as there are actions that are good or evil.  Our Holy Father teaches the truth  clearly on all matters and help prevent us straying from what is the TRUTH.

“But who do you say that I am?  Simon Peter said in reply, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.’”  Peter received a revelation from our Father in heaven and knew that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ.  My friends, our faith is not a matter of opinions, it is not a matter of who people say the Son of Man is but faith is believing what has been revealed to us by God.  Without the revelation of God or if we do not believe the revelation of God we would wander aimlessly saying, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah…”  With Jesus, Our Risen Lord we can say with FAITH. “You ARE the Christ, the Son of the living God!”  We thank our Father in heaven for giving us a Pope who guides us in the TRUTH that is Jesus Christ.

Question of the Day:  Does you faith allow you to believe that Jesus is “the way and the TRUTH and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through HIM?

Prayer:  Pray for Pope Francis, as well as Pope Saint John Paul II every day.  Conform your prayers for his intentions to lead our Church and the rest of the world to hear Jesus’ voice of truth, of love of God and love of neighbor.  Pray with Pope Francis for the end of war and violence throughout the world.  Pray for the end of the Coronavirus pandemic.  Pray that God will give Pope Francis the physical strength and moral courage to continue to bring the redeeming Words of Christ to the world.  Amen. 

Please continue to pray for the victims of the Coronavirus and for all who are affected by this unprecedented pandemic as well as for peace in our country and in our world.


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