Jesus wants us to know Him personally

Gospel of Matthew 16:13-20

Jesus says to Peter ‘You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church’. This was the first line that struck me when reading the Gospel passage for the twenty-first week in ordinary time. It was, actually, the Greek word for Church (ἐκκλησία), which can also be translated as congregation or assembly, which drew my attention in a particular way. It strikes me that it is so often forgotten that we are all part of the Church, part of the ‘Body of Christ’ as St. Paul repeatedly tells us. It seems, especially here in Ireland, that it is often forgotten that the Church is all the people of God and not just the hierarchy. While Jesus is very firm here that the Pope is the head of the Church, and has the authority to lead it, it is all the faithful together who make up the Body. And this is something to be clearly seen at World Youth Day which is underway at the moment in Madrid, Spain, where hundreds of thousands, even millions of young people from around the world gather together to celebrate their faith!

But there was another thing that struck me regarding the question Jesus addresses to his disciples, asking ‘Who do men say that the son of man is?’ Interestingly Jesus doesn’t refer to himself directly, e.g. who do men say that I am, but asks who the son of man is. After Peter has declared openly that Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus charges the disciples not to tell anyone who He is. The reason I think Jesus asks who the Son of Man is, and later tells the disciples not to tell anybody He is the Christ, is because He wants each one of us to come to know Him personally. Like the disciples we need to meet Him and have our own personal encounter with Him, and in this encounter recognise Him for who He really is, otherwise we run the risk of being like the people earlier in the Gospel who followed Jesus only because they had witnessed the multiplication of the bread, not because of Jesus himself, but because their bellies were filled.

Let us accept the invitation of Jesus to meet Him and to discover Who the ‘Son of Man’ really is together with all the young people gathering in Madrid for the International World Youth Day.

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