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Bulletin: August 23, 2020

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Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus poses the question “But who do you say I am?” in today’s Gospel passage. It is a question posed to Peter and the disciples, to Matthew’s first readers, and to the Church today. Peter’s confession of faith in Jesus as Christ and Son of God was a culmination of what the disciples had experienced in their life with Jesus thus far. Jesus affirms Peter’s declaration as a gift from God. But it was only the beginning of Peter’s understanding of what these words actually meant, and how the disciples saw themselves in light of this truth. As Jesus and the disciples turned toward Jerusalem and to the cross, the disciples perhaps pondered their own identity, together with their dawning understanding of Jesus’ identity. For us, the journey of faith, initiated and sustained by the Holy Spirit, means an ongoing reflection upon who Jesus is and who we are.

TO BIND AND TO LOOSE

When Jesus says to Peter “whatever you bind” or “whatever you loose” in today’s Gospel, he describes a distinct power that emerges from Peter’s faith in Jesus. The capacity to bind or to loose suggests a new ability, both to restrain or block forces that harm the community of faith, and also to release or liberate energies that strengthen the community.

It might be helpful to observe, within your own parish or faith community, where God might be working now. Perhaps you can see persons and groups working to restrain toxic forces of resentment or fear. You might see those who are releasing new energies, and empowering the faithful to care for their neighbors. When we are grounded in a prayerful trust relationship with Jesus, we can receive this power to participate in God’s work, to bind and to loose.

AWE AND PRAISE

In today’s passage from Romans, Paul concludes his complex reflections on the Jewish people, the emerging Gentile churches, and God’s work among them. Paul has struggled to understand the responses of both the Jewish and Gentile communities, with their mix of acceptance and rejection of Jesus. He warns the Roman church to avoid any sense of superiority over Jews or non-Christian Gentiles, for everyone is in need of God’s mercy. Paul acknowledges the limits of his understanding, and gives way to prayers of awe and praise. He concludes by marveling at the limitless mercy of God, whose designs are ultimately mysterious.

Sometimes our own prayer can be like that of Paul. In conversation with God, we try to make sense of life, especially its difficulties. The full truth of what’s going on in our lives or in our world eludes us, and so we work humbly with the truth that we can understand. If we believe our mysterious God is indeed trustworthy, we can open our hearts in praise, and allow God to shape our lives.

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