At this point in the gospel, Jesus and his chosen ones have travelled and lived together for some time. He invites them to explore what they understand of his identity. Even in his question, there is an explicit hint of his identity: ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ The people offer a variety of opinions: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. But it is Peter who adds to the title ‘Son of Man’ by recognising Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God. This same Peter, whose faith faltered when he was buffeted by the wind and waves (see the gospel for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time), has now shown that he is open to God and recognises Jesus for who he is. But this is not the end of Peter’s story. There are ups and downs in his response, as there are in our own. As long as we remain open to the gift of faith, we are offered forgiveness when we fail to treasure what God has given to us.
In this gospel, we find another example of the common device used by Matthew to denote the movement of Christianity from a Jewish to a Gentile setting. Jesus has left the Jewish region around the Sea of Galilee and travelled north-west to the Gentile territory of what was ancient Phoenicia in Syria. Jesus’ fame has obviously spread even here, but the focus of the passage is not the cure but the dialogue.
A little-noticed phrase in this week’s Gospel adds significantly to the way we understand this story. Jesus told the disciples to cross to the other side of the lake. In doing this, they were heading away from the Jewish region and into Gentile territory. The boat is a symbol of the church, and as such, we can detect in this text a reflection of the situation of Matthew’s community, who have been forced out of the synagogue and away from traditional Judaism. More and more, it is Gentiles who are coming to belief in Jesus.
The death of the Baptist has left Jesus saddened, and he withdraws to be alone with the disciples. But even his personal sorrow is overwhelmed by compassion for the people who had followed him, and he cures their sick. The crowd stays with him, even into the evening. When the disciples ask Jesus to send them away to eat, Jesus’ response is a challenge to the disciples: feed them yourselves.
Jesus continues to convey his teaching about the kingdom using the imagery of everyday life. Pearls were highly valued in the Near East and were regarded as a symbol of wisdom—hence the saying ‘pearls of wisdom’. In the first two of these parables, the protagonists commit everything they own to acquiring what is beyond price. According to Jesus, gaining a place in the kingdom is worth the sacrifice of everything we value most.
This week’s bulletin again details where Sunday Mass can be view on TV and online, or alternatively listened to on radio. Also, we congratulate Tony & Pauline French on the occasion of their Golden Wedding Anniversary…
UPDATED: COVID-19 guidance for parishes – Following the return to Stage 3 lockdown restrictions for the next six weeks, an updated set of guidelines has been prepared to assist Clergy and Faithful with questions pertaining to specific areas of liturgy and ministry in the Archdiocese of Melbourne.
Today is the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time and the day that the Australian Bishops and our National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council have invited us to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday. Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics number over 130,000 and are growing strongly.
Dear Parishioners of Our Lady of the Assumption, Please God we’re all okay, living with these re-imposed restrictions, in addition to the many safety measures in place, designed to see us through these extraordinary days, …or should I say, months!
Focus on the Readings… The people of Matthew’s community were being persecuted for their faith. They were mostly Jews who had come to accept Jesus as the awaited Messiah.