Last Monday marked the beginning of the year of preparation for the World Meeting of Families to be held in August 2018. The Icon of the Holy Family was anointed and blessed during the Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady in Knock with all the dioceses of Ireland represented. Over the next few months the icon will tour the dioceses of Ireland as a focus for our prayerful preparation for the meeting in Dublin.

This weekend in our gospel reading Jesus asks the apostles “who do you say the Son of Man is?” Jesus was in Caesarea Philippi in the north eastern corner of Palestine. There no one would not look for Him. He had much to teach the twelve before He could leave them this was quality teaching time. So, He put the question to them that went to the heart of the matter, “Who do you say I am?” Peter acting as spokesman for the others told Him He was “the Son of the living God” Peter confesses the deep mystery of Jesus, who is the Christ and the Son of God. In the light of this inspired confession, Peter is chosen to be the rock on which the Church is built.When Jesus told him “ you are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church” Peter received the gift of being the leader of the Church.

Peter was first among the apostles, first among those who were called to proclaim the Kingdom of God on earth. Peter took leadership in the Church at Pentecost. After he, the apostles and Mary, received the Holy Spirit, Peter led everyone out to the Temple and began preaching the good news to the people. After Saul became Paul, after the persecutor of the primitive Church accepted Jesus Christ, Paul spent three years in the desert reflecting on his experience of the Lord on the Road to Damascus. He then went to Jerusalem to receive Peter’s blessing and commission to bring the Good News of the Gospel to the world.  We do not know how Peter got to Rome. We know that he was there, though. We know that Peter died in Rome, crucified head down. The excavations under the Basilica of St. Peter revealed a tomb with the words, Here Lies Peter. We also know that when Peter died, the charism he was given to lead the Church remained active in Rome. The ones who took his place, St. Linus, and those who followed him, St. Cletus, St. Clement in the Apostolic succession right through the centuries up until Pope Francis in our present time .All of them are all recognized as having received the  same charism that the Lord gave to Peter to lead the Church and this has passed down through the centuries. As time went on, these bishops of Rome would be given the title, Pope, Papa, Father of the Family, leader of the Church. Through our baptism, all Christians have received a share in the power of the keys to heaven. With that power goes responsibility to witness to the Gospel. So who do you and I say Jesus is in light of this Sundays Gospel reading.

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