Deacon Bob’s Homily for 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Here is my homily for this weekend. God bless all of you!

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Isaiah 22:19-23; Romans 11:33-36; Matthew 16:13-20

August 26/27, 2023

To St. Stephen Parish, Bentonville, Arkansas

But who do you say that I am? This question, the “Jesus Question”, was one that was put to the Apostles some two thousand years ago. It is a question that is being put to us today, here in Bentonville. We would do well to answer it honestly.

Who is Jesus to you? What do you say?

The world today is much like the world two thousand years ago, at the time of Christ. They said he was a prophet, a wise man, and a good teacher, just like so many would say of him now…. but certainly not someone to worship with a holy fear! Certainly not the divine Son of the living God, for to acknowledge him in that way would require obedience and a certain holy fear, and we can’t have that in our lives! O no! If we did, we all would have to fall on our knees on this church’s floor in adoration and submission! We couldn’t have that!

So, we live in mediocrity, and see him as a wise man who counseled us well. We settle for a shallow faith. It seems easier that way. No kneeling necessary….

It takes a Peter, of course, for us to get it right. Peter who said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!

It is difficult for us to comprehend the depth of Peter’s faith — which was a gift given to him by God so he could confirm the faith of all of us, a gift we can access if we really are open to it and approach it with humility. It takes Peter’s faith to get it right in our own lives. Peter was given that gift of faith and upon it the Church is built and survives. All the Peters that have succeeded that first one, that is all the popes up to and including Pope Francis, have that same inerrant faith to proclaim Jesus. If we lean on the faith of Peter, if we sustain ourselves on the faith of Peter, if we remain united to him, then we too will answer the “Jesus Question” correctly.

A priest friend of mine who studied in Rome a number of years after I and Msgr Marczuk studied there, told me of an experience he had that goes to the point of this homily. My friend, Father Bill, was standing at the foot of the main altar in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. If you have ever been there, you know the location well. He was taking in the beauty of the altar and its environs. Unexpectedly, an Chinese man scurried up next to him holding a Chinese tourist guide. The man turned to Bill and said to him in broken English, “What is this?” Bill said that it was St. Peters’ Basilica. The man began flipping pages in the tourist guide, and then again looked up at Bill and asked, “And who is this St. Peter?” Bill explained that he was an apostle of Jesus Christ and his tomb was right down there, pointing to the space under the altar. The man again started flipping pages and with a puzzled look, asked Bill one more question, “And who is this Jesus?”  Bill was stunned, speechless, for he never imagined anyone would asked him such a question in St. Peter’s Basilica.


My friends, every day of your life, someone in one way or another will come to you ask you that question, whether or not you realize they are doing so. How will you answer? Are you prepared?

Who is this Jesus?

Sometimes we lack the honesty that Chinese man had. Sometimes we pretend to know Jesus, but really we really don’t. The tourist guides of the world do not provide us the real answer. Certainly, our favorite political leaders and celebrities, even our favorite theologians and authors do not get it right. Forget all of them!  Look to Peter!

We all need a rock upon which we build our lives. We need the faith of Peter. We need the faith of the Church. We must never, under any circumstances, separate ourselves from the Church built on Peter’s confession of faith. We must never come to know Jesus by our politics or by those who entertain us.

Look to Peter and his successors. Look to the faith of the Church. There you will find the answer, like the other apostles did when they heard Peter’s faith in Jesus the Son of the living God.

So, in conclusion, I go to Peter’s successor to give you the answer to the “Jesus Question”. No one can answer any more clearly or eloquently.

Pope St. Paul VI said this on November 29, 1970, at Manila in the Philippines:

“I am bound to proclaim that Jesus is Christ, the Son of the living God. Because of him we come to know the God that we cannot see. He is the firstborn of all creation; in him all things find their being… he was born for us, died for us, and for us he rose from the dead…. A man of sorrow and hope, he knows us and loves us. As our friend he stays by us throughout our lives; at the end of time he will come to be our judge; but we also know that he will be the complete fulfillment of our lives and our great happiness for all eternity.

I can never cease to speak of Christ for he is our truth and our light; he is the way, the truth and the life. He is our bread, our source of living water who allays our hunger and satisfies our thirst. He is our shepherd, our leader, our ideal, our comforter and our brother.

He is like us but more perfectly human, simple, poor, humble, and yet, while burdened with work, he is more patient. He spoke on our behalf; he worked miracles; and he founded a new kingdom: in it the poor are happy; peace is the foundation of a life in common; where the pure of heart and those who mourn are uplifted and comforted; the hungry find justice; sinners are forgiven; and all discover that they are brothers.

So once again I repeat his name to you…. and I proclaim to all men: Jesus Christ is the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega, Lord of a new universe, the great hidden key to human history and the part we play in it. He is the mediator… Above all he is the Son of man, more perfect than any man, being also the Son of God, eternal and infinite. He is the son of Mary….

Remember: [it] is Jesus Christ I preach day in and day out. His name I would see echo and reecho for all time even to the ends of the earth.” Amen!

About Deacon Bob

Moderator: Deacon Bob Yerhot of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota.
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