22 February [Chair of Peter]
Mt 16:13-19

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say Jn the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."

“The only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father…. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven….”  This is the from the 4th-century Nicene Creed.  By that time there had been many controversies about the identity of Jesus, and there had been time for the Christian mind to mature.  Peter and the other disciples knew Jesus intimately, yet they could not have elaborated the Nicene Creed, or the Athanasian Creed, or any developed theology about him. 

There are different kinds of knowing.  They contrast with one another and yet do not exclude one another.  There is factual knowledge; then there is intimate knowledge; and thirdly, the saints speak of a mysterious or mystical knowledge. 

Unless you had some training as an archivist or historian you could not write a biography of your mother, yet in another way you know her more intimately than any historian or archivist ever could, whose knowledge was just factual.  This intimate knowledge is not usually able to give a fluent account of itself, and so to the other kind of knowledge it appears very simple and poor.  No footnotes, no bibliography, no historical background, little or no relationship to contemporary events.  A historian would dismiss it.  But to intimate knowledge, the historian’s knowledge looks cold and impersonal, too general.

Meister Eckhart spoke continually about another still ‘poorer’ kind of knowledge – poorer and yet richer than the others.  “Anyone who would see God must be blind,” he said.  “‘God is a light that shines in the darkness’.  God is a light that blinds us. That means a light of such nature that it is uncomprehended: it is un­ending, in other words it has no end and knows no end. The blinding of the soul means that she knows nothing and is aware of nothing. The 'darkness' is best of all.”

“Some say you are John the Baptist, others Elijah or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”  That was factual knowledge, despite the strangeness of the claims (it was a fact that some people thought this and that).  Deeper than this, Peter knew Jesus as a friend; he had intimate or personal knowledge of him.  But deeper than this again, he had some mysterious inkling of the ultimate identity of Jesus.  Every Christian has this kind of knowledge of Jesus, buried somewhere in them. 


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This page gives a very brief commentary by Donagh O’Shea on the gospel reading for each day of the month. 


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