This week let us start with

THE NEW TESTAMENT READING [ROMANS 11: 33 – 36], but recall identical phrases from last week’s Gospel and that of the Eighteenth Sunday. Both these extracts tell us that the disciples ask (tell?!) Jesus to send people away ….. last week it was send her away”, and on the 18th Sunday, send them away.” So we are faced with ‘sending away’ the individual or the group.

In both these incidents we are faced with the ignorance of the disciples of

WHOM they were making their request (demand?!) and dealing with. In addition, they had no understanding of the wisdom of God and HIS judgements.

In our extract from the Letter to the Romans, Saint Paul writes of – “the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God … how unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways … who has known the mind of the Lord?” Do not overlook that on both the previous Sundays referred to the eventual outcome was far, far, removed from the mind and understanding of the disciples. This reminds us of another assertion of Paul when he proclaims that “divine folly is wiser than the wisdom of man, and divine weakness stronger than man’s strength.”

{1 Corinthians 1:25}

Is this not the reason for the Lord’s challenging question to the disciples in

THIS SUNDAY’S GOSPEL [MATTHEW 16: 13 – 20]?

The question and challenge are simple but profound. Who do men say that the Son of Man is?” This challenge is the crux and pivot of all that follows. So many good folk jump into these verses at the deep end instead of learning how to swim in the shallows. Last week we observed the need to see Christianity before Catholicism, and this week we need to see Christianity before Church.

Now have a very close look at the closing verse of our Gospel extract which says that he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.” Is this surprising? It should not be. Why was it a strict charge? Well, because no one can be told who or what Jesus is. Each one, every single individual, must discover and own the truth for themselves. In the absence of an individual, sole, acknowledgement

AND ACCEPTANCE of the wisdom of God, his riches and judgements revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, Messiah, Lord and Saviour, it is impossible for me to be a Christian, member of the Church and Catholic (Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran or Baptists). The knowledge and acceptance of Jesus Christ are what brings forth bread from the earth, and wine to cheer the heart.” {see today’s COMMUNION ANTIPHON}

This fact is confirmed by what Jesus says to Peter after the apostle’s confession of faith. Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” Indeed the wisdom of God and his ways are inscrutable! It does not matter what others tell me about Jesus or the Christ. What matters is my own personal discovery of the God who is wise and inscrutable. Then, I have to OWN this God – and his ways. But who do you say I am?” Blessed John Henry, Cardinal, Newman adopted as his motto,

“Heart speaks to heart.” At some stage of the proceedings God’s heart speaks to my heart and I truly and fully believe. God’s heart speaks to me in the person of the Lord Jesus – no more, no less. Flesh and blood cannot reveal anything – it must be heart to heart.

I must become, like Peter, part of the mystery of God-in-Christ This is the fact, invitation and challenge to which Peter opened his heart. It was his heart that made him respond as he did. It was the Lord’s question and challenge which gave utterance to

HIS heart. Each one of us needs to arrive at the point when we are able, as TODAY’S PSALM [138 or 137] tells us, to thank the Lord with all my heart.” The mind is important. It helps us to understand why heart must speak to heart. The heart is what makes it possible for us to look for, discover and own that which will make the difference. Too often the mind on its own tells us to settle for what others might expect.

If, now, we read

OUR OLD TESTAMENT EXTRACT [ISAIAH 22: 19 – 23] we may well wonder at its connection with the Gospel?

Shebna was thrust from his office” because his heart was not in it. He had a private agenda and wanted to do it his way. Eliakim was given the robe and bounded with the belt. He was fastened “like a peg in a sure place.” This is exactly what happened to Peter – the Gospel extract makes this much very clear. Faith has to capture our hearts otherwise it withers and dies …. we take it away ourselves. Faith, like the heart, has to be nurtured. Even when we fail, slip backwards and sin, a faith nurtured in the heart gives us the power to recover.

Then we “shall open, and none shall shut; … shut and none shall open ….” we know, and own, who Jesus Christ really is – we know it for ourselves. No one else has told us.