Dom Gregory’s Homily on the feast of St Peter and St Paul

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Sts Peter and Paul

29 June 2021

Peter’s Confession of Faith

The Confession of St Peter comes at the very centre of the Gospel of St Matthew. The event introduces a tight knit narrative through which Peter’s understanding of the work of the Messiah is forcefully corrected during the week which culminates in the transfiguration. We hear Peter proclaim Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of the living God, only to have his ideas about what this will mean put right with great determination by his Master. All the disciples hear Jesus foretelling the passion, and then Peter, James and John are granted the vision of their transfigured Lord, and the revelation of his Divine Sonship and authority.

Peter uses the words of David to proclaim whose Son Jesus is: the Son of the Living God. Quite different from the painted images and idols with names attached with which the pagan world, abounded. Jesus is indeed the Son of God, the living and true God. That knowledge is the bedrock of truth from which our redemption and the establishment of the Church will follow. Peter was beginning to perceive the presence of the decisive intervention of God in the world, so long expected. The revelation he had begun to receive about Jesus was paralleled by the revelation about himself, who he was and what place was to be his in the new world of the redeemed, so soon to be established. The new identity is signified by a new name: the one Jonah had given his son is replaced by one that reflects the decisive importance of his faith in Our Lord. Peter’s faith binds him to the rock who is his Saviour and his God.

It is not flesh and blood that has revealed to Peter who his Master is. Flesh and blood are the elements which drag a man down to the beasts. The soul of man must be purged and made a dwelling fit for the Holy Spirit, by dying to sin and living to righteousness. Then we may hope to led by the prompt and willing Spirit, who guides and inspires the human soul in the way of salvation. The body must be subject to reason and live in accord with the light given to the reason, so that the soul may be guided by the Holy Spirit. Peter, like the rest of us, had to learn by painful experience that the flesh is weak, and that if we are to live and walk by the Spirit we must be constantly vigilant. The deeds of the flesh and the simple instinct and impulse to save one’s skin are very powerful. These are the temptations which wage war against our souls, luring us away from the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Flesh and blood will not bring us knowledge of God. St Peter teaches to die to sin and live for righteousness, to allow the wounds of Christ to heal us. We, who wish to live by the Spirit, are taught by St Peter to return to the Shepherd and guardian of our souls.

Dom Gregory Corcoran

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