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Liturgical day: Thursday 18th in Ordinary Time

1st Reading (Num 20:1-13): The whole congregation of the children of Israel arrived in the desert of Zin in the first month, and the people settled at Kadesh. It was here that Miriam died, and here that she was buried. As the community had no water, they held a council against Moses and Aaron. The people contended with Moses, exclaiming, «Would that we too had perished with our kinsmen in the Lord's presence! Why have you brought the LORD's assembly into this desert where we and our livestock are dying? Why did you lead us out of Egypt, only to bring us to this wretched place which has neither grain nor figs nor vines nor pomegranates? Here there is not even water to drink!».

But Moses and Aaron went away from the assembly to the entrance of the meeting tent, where they fell prostrate. Then the glory of the Lord appeared to them, and the Lord said to Moses, «Take your staff and assemble the community, you and your brother Aaron, and in their presence order the rock to yield its waters. From the rock you shall bring forth water for the congregation and their livestock to drink». So Moses took his staff from its place before the Lord, as he was ordered. He and Aaron assembled the community in front of the rock, where he said to them, «Listen to me, you rebels! Are we to bring water for you out of this rock?». Then, raising his hand, Moses struck the rock twice with his staff, and water gushed out in abundance for the people and their livestock to drink.

But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, «Because you were not faithful to me in showing forth my sanctity before the children of Israel, you shall not lead this community into the land I will give them». These are the waters of Meribah, where the children of Israel contended against the Lord, and where the Lord revealed his sanctity among them.
Responsorial Psalm: 94
R/. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the Lord; let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation. Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us joyfully sing psalms to him.

Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the Lord who made us. For he is our God, and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.

Oh, that today you would hear his voice: «Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the desert, where your fathers tested me; they tested me though they had seen my works».
Verscicle before the Gospel (Mt 16:18): Alleluia. You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. Alleluia.

Gospel text (Mt 16,13-23): Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi. He asked his disciples, «Who do people say the Son of Man is?». They said, «For some of them you are John the Baptist, for others Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the prophets». Jesus asked them, «But you, who do you say I am?». Peter answered, «You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God». Jesus replied, «It is well for you, Simon Barjona, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. And now I say to you: You are Peter (or Rock) and on this rock I will build my Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and what you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven». Then He ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

From that day Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that He must go to Jerusalem; He would suffer many things from the Jewish authorities, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law. He would be killed and be raised on the third day. Then Peter took him aside and began to reproach him, «Never, Lord! No, this must never happen to you». But Jesus turned to him and said, «Get behind me, Satan! You would have me stumble. You are their king not as God does, but as people do».

«You are their king not as God does, but as people do»

Fr. Joaquim MESEGUER García
(Rubí, Barcelona, Spain)

Today, Jesus proclaims Peter very fortunate for his rightful faith declaration: «Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’. Jesus replied ‘It is well for you, Simon Barjona, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you but my Father in heaven’» (Mt 16:16-17). By this congratulation Jesus promises Peter the primacy of his Church; but, shortly after, He scolds Peter for having a very human and wrong idea of what the Messiah would do: «Then Peter took him aside and began to reproach him, ‘Never, Lord! No, this must never happen to you’. But Jesus turned to him and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You would have me stumble. You are their king not as God does, but as people do’» (Mt 16:22-23).

We have to be grateful to the evangelists for presenting us the first disciples of Jesus as they actually were: no idealized characters, but people of flesh and blood as ourselves, with their defects and virtues; which gets them closer to us and helps us to see that perfecting ourselves in Christian life is a certain path we all have to follow, for nobody is born knowing all the answers.

As we already know how history goes, let us accept Jesus Christ was the suffering Messiah prophet Isaiah announced who offered his life in the Cross. What is more difficult to accept is that we must keep on presenting his work by following the same path of surrendering, renunciation and sacrifice. Imbued, as we appear to be, with a society that encourages quick success, learning without any effort and in a funny way, and achieving the maximum profit with the least possible strain, it should not surprise us we end up by seeing things more as people do than as God does. Once he received the Holy Spirit, Peter learned where the path he had to follow went through and he lived by this expectation. «World tribulations are full of sadness and empty of any prizes; but those we suffer for God are softened by the hope of an eternal prize» (St. Ephraem).