During the final days of Advent, the anticipation increases as the birth of the Savior draws near. In the seven evenings before Christmas, this anticipation is marked by the “O” Antiphons. This liturgical tradition from the earliest days of the Church emphasizes a different prophetic title of Christ as foreshadowed by the prophet Isaiah. These are included in Evening Prayer on the final seven nights of Advent.
The Fourth "O" Antiphon O Key of David, come. Unlock what none shall bind, and lock what none shall loose: the captives in the darkness imprisoned, now set free.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew. When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:13-19
Who do YOU say that I am?!
Every time I read this gospel from Matthew, I think about how Peter felt to have the son of God ask him that question, and how intimidating it would be for me if I was in that situation.
The way we answer Jesus will change our lives. If we acknowledge Jesus to be the son of God, then we will pay close attention to what he says, believe it, and live it.
Would we say that Jesus is the Messiah? If we do not really believe that, then Advent, our anticipation of his birth and eventual return, has little meaning.
If we do believe, Advent is a time to question ourselves, are we living our lives as if Jesus is the Messiah? Do we practice what we preach, do we receive the sacraments, do we love our enemies, do we serve our brothers and sisters?
How, too, would we answer the other question Jesus asked Peter, Who do people say that I am?
We see the same skepticism today that we read about 2000 years ago. We see evil forces twisting and turning Jesus’ message of love: in our day-to-day lives in marriage, in relationships with our kids, in the rights of the unborn, the elderly, and immigrants, to name a few.
For me, even though I believe that Jesus is the Messiah, I frequently catch myself not living what I believe. Advent gives us the opportunity to reflect and think about the situations in life where we should put our full faith in him.
Lastly, what did Jesus do when Peter answered his question? He gave Peter responsibility to form the Church, to evangelize the world with the other apostles. Even with all of Peter’s fault as an individual, he became an important instrument for God’s plan.
What is our commitment to Jesus in this advent season, as we get ready to receive him?
How can we be God’s instruments to continue to grow the church and evangelize our communities?
By Javier Ubarri
Lord God, fill our hearts with love for one another and our minds with wise counsel so that our actions will be pleasing to you. May your peace, which surpasses all understanding, guard our hearts and minds. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.