Dear brothers and sisters, good day!
This Sunday’s Gospel reading (see Mt 16:13-20) presents the moment in which Peter professes his faith in Jesus as Messiah and Son of God. The Apostle’s confession is provoked by Jesus Himself, who wishes to lead His disciples to take the decisive step in their relationship with Him. Indeed, the entirety of Jesus’s journey with those who follow Him, especially with the Twelve, is one of educating their faith. First of all, He asks: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (v. 13). The Apostles liked talking about people, as we all do. We like to gossip. Speaking of others is not so demanding, this is why we like it; even “flaying” others. In this case the perspective of faith rather than gossip is already required, and so He asks, “What do the people say I am?”. And the disciples seem to compete in reporting the different opinions, which perhaps, to a large extent, they themselves shared. They too shared them. In essence, Jesus of Nazareth was considered to be a prophet (v. 14).
With the second question, Jesus touches them to the core: “But what about you? … Who do you say I am?” (v. 15). At this point, we seem to perceive a moment of silence, as each one of those present is called to put themselves on the line, manifesting the reason why they follow Jesus; therefore a certain hesitation is more than legitimate. Even if I were to ask you now, “For you, who is Jesus?”, there would be a little hesitation. Simon takes them off the hook by declaring forthrightly, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (v. 16). This answer, so complete and enlightening, does not come from an impulse of his own, however generous – Peter was generous – but rather is the fruit of a particular grace of the heavenly Father. Indeed, Jesus Himself says, “This was not revealed to you by flesh and blood” – that is, by culture, what you have studied, no this has not revealed it to you. It was revealed to you “by my Father in heaven” (v. 17). To confess Jesus is a grace of the Father. To say that Jesus is the Son of the living God, who is the Redeemer, is a grace that we must ask for: “Father, give me the grace of confessing Jesus”. At the same time, the Lord acknowledges Simon’s prompt response to the inspiration of grace and therefore adds, in a solemn tone, “You are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it”. (v. 18). With this affirmation, Jesus makes Simon aware of the meaning of the new name He has given him, “Peter”: the faith he has just shown is the unshakeable “rock” on which the Son of God wishes to build His Church, that is, community. And the Church goes forward always on the basis of Peter’s faith, that faith that Jesus recognises [in Peter] and which makes him the head of the Church.
Today, we hear Jesus’s question directed to each one of us: “And you, who do you say I am?”. To each one of us. And every one of us must give not a theoretical answer, but one that involves faith, that is, life, because faith is life! “For me you are …” and then to confess Jesus. An answer that demands that we too, like the first disciples, inwardly listen to the voice of the Father and its consonance with what the Church, gathered around Peter, continues to proclaim. It is a matter of understanding who Christ is for us: if He is the centre of our life, if He is the goal of our commitment in the Church, our commitment in society. Who is Jesus Christ for me? Who is Jesus Christ for you, for you, for you …? An answer that we should give every day.
But beware: it is indispensable and praiseworthy that the pastoral care of our communities be open to many forms of poverty and crises, which are everywhere. Charity is always the high road of the journey of faith, of the perfection of faith. But it is necessary that works of solidarity, the works of charity that we carry out, not divert us from contact with the Lord Jesus. Christian charity is not simple philanthropy but, on the one hand, it is looking at others through the eyes of Jesus Himself and, on the other hand, seeing Jesus in the face of the poor. This is the true path of Christian charity, with Jesus at the centre, always. May Mary Most Holy, blessed because she believed, be our guide and model on the path of faith in Christ and make us aware that trust in Him gives full meaning to our charity and to all our existence.
After the Angelus the Holy Father continued:
Dear brothers and sisters,
Yesterday, World Day Remembering the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief was celebrated. Let us pray for these, our brothers and sisters, and let us also sustain with our prayer and solidarity those, and there are many, who today are persecuted because of their faith and religion. There are many.
Tomorrow, 24 August, is the tenth anniversary of the massacre of 72 migrants in San Fernando, in Tamaulipas, Mexico. They were people from various countries who were looking for a better life. I express my solidarity with the families of the victims who today are still asking for truth and justice regarding the events. The Lord will hold us to account for all of the migrants who have fallen on their journey of Hope. They were victims of the throwaway culture.
Tomorrow is the fourth anniversary of the earthquake that hit Central Italy. I renew my prayer for the families and the communities who suffered the greatest devastation that they may go ahead in solidarity and hope, and I hope that the reconstruction might accelerate so that the people might return to live serenely in this beautiful territory of the Apennine Hills.
I also wish to emphasise my closeness to the people of Cabo Delgado in the north of Mozambique who are suffering because of international terrorism. I do so with the vivid recollection of my visit to that country about a year ago.
I extend a cordial greeting to you all, Romans and pilgrims, and in particular to the young people of the people of Cernusco sul Naviglio, those who are in yellow over there. They departed from Siena by bicycle and they arrived in Rome via the via Francigena. You have been very good! And I also greet the group of families from Carobbo degli Angeli (province of Bergamo), who have come here on a pilgrimage in memory of the victims of the coronavirus. And let’s not forget, let’s not forget the victims of the coronavirus. This morning I heard the testimony of a family who lost their grandparents without being able to say goodbye to them, on the same day. So much suffering, so many people who lost their lives, victims of this disease; and so many volunteers, doctors, nurses, sisters, priests, who also lost their lives. Let us remember the families who have suffered because of this.
And I wish you all a blessed Sunday. Please, do not forget to pray for me. Have a good lunch, and goodbye!