top of page

21OT A ~ "Who?" ~ Two Homilies: Rev. Benjamin Roberts & Dr. Susan McGurgan


Rev. Benjamin Roberts, DMin

It all began with an invitation from the Lord Jesus.

Walking by the Sea, the master called two sets of brothers. It all began with the words, “Come, follow me.” Today, the encounter between Jesus and the disciples begins with a question: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” The Lord Jesus then asks a more direct question, “But who do you say that I am?” By a special revelation from the Father, Simon professes, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” From the mouth of Simon the Fisherman come the words of Peter the Shepherd. On him and his profession of faith Christ our Lord has promised to build his Church and the gates of the netherworld shall not overcome it. Death will not conquer the Church. Death will not bring an end to the mission of Peter. In every age, and from generation to generation, the office of the Apostle Peter continues in the Church. The office of the Apostle Peter continues in Our Holy Father, the Pope, who is the Bishop of Rome.

It is the task of our Holy Father, the Pope, to confess the faith of the Church. It is the task of our Holy Father to confirm the brethren as the head of the college of Bishops, and it is his task to bind and to loose with the authority of Jesus Christ. It is his responsibility as the Successor of St. Peter to declare that which is in conformity with our profession of faith and that which is not in conformity with the faith of the Church.

But chiefly, the Holy Father exercises the office of unity. The Holy Father keeps us united to the Apostles, to the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, to the saints of ages long passed, and the saints whose voices we heard with our own ears. The Holy Father keeps us united to our past. Like a good shepherd, the Holy Father leads the flock into the green pastures ahead of us. For the whole Church, he guards her faith from error so that the gift that we have received from the Lord through the Apostles might be faithfully handed on to the next generation. Saint Peter, now through Pope Francis, continues to profess the faith, to shepherd the flock, and to proclaim the message of salvation.

And yet, what Christ the Lord has given to Peter in a very particular way, Christ has also shared with each of us. We are here today because we have made our own the confession of faith made by the Apostle Peter. We believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. We make that profession of faith our own each time we say “Amen.” We make that profession of faith our own profoundly when we pronounce our “Amen” at Holy Communion. For Simon, the Fisherman of Galilee, this profession of faith took him from his homeland and from his culture, and from his daily work. This profession of faith took him to prison, to persecution, to crucifixion in the circus of Nero, and to burial on a hillside where his bones still rest. Our journey will likely be different, but the one who calls us, the one in whom we place our faith, and the one whose Gospel we live and proclaim is the same. It is Christ the Lord who invites us.

And now the invitation of Christ calls us to his table. We join in prayer with and for our Holy Father Francis as he professes the faith and shepherds the flock. We are nourished so that we can faithfully hand on the gift of faith that we have received. And we join with St. Peter as we stand before the Lord and confess, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Amen.

HOMILY II Dr. Susan MCGurgan

Years ago,

I sat at my computer

checking an email again and again,


and re-reading it,

hoping that somehow,

my eyes were bad

or the words would change—



Morph from something

wild and raw

into something tame.

In the days following

our second Doctoral residency,

a fellow student

was killed in a head on collision

traveling to meet his family for vacation.

The email from our program director

was clear and direct,

sharing the details in words

that revealed his own shock and grief.

It was senseless,



It ripped away the illusion that we are

somehow in control—

that if we live for others,

if we play by the rules and color within the lines,

if we plan something


for our lives,

we might somehow avoid sorrow and pain.

The email tore us from familiar streets

and well-traveled roads,

and dropped us upon the desolate hill of Calvary,

looking up at the cross.

But who do you say I am?

That question,

asked of his disciples

is a question Jesus asks of us, as well.

There are days that question

can be easy to answer.

Days when our families celebrate new life.

Days when a friend reaches out to forgive.

Days when sacrifice leads to blessing.

Days when joy takes you by surprise.

But there are other days—

Days when that question

challenges and nags…

even taunts us to reply—

But who do you say that I am?

There are days when that question

comes to us

while we read an email

bringing sorrow and shock.

Days when it emerges from

the betrayal of a friend.

Times when that question comes to us,

bearing jagged edges

and sharpened prongs.

Sometimes God’s question,

“Who do you say that I am?”

comes to us from places of ambiguity,


and pain.

Places where the borders

between hope and despair,

between life and death,

between trust and foolishness

are blurred.

Places where the road signs

have vanished

and the map

has become creased.

“But who do you say that I am?”

There are days when

the answer we want to give,

the witness we want to be,

the words we long to say

healing words

comforting words

bold words of trust and faith

stick deep in the back of our throats

too elusive and fragile

to speak aloud.

And yet that question,

“Who do you say that I am?”

continues to echo from Cesarea Phillipi.

It lingers in the air over Maui.

It travels on the smoke of western Canada.

It echoes in collapsed apartments in Ukraine.

It shouts from an operating room in Tulsa

and from a funeral home in Maine.

Who do you say that I am?

This question arises when good men die,

when families grieve,

when hearts are broken

and life changes in an instant.

When he was asked,

Peter answers boldly,

“You are Christ, the Son of the living God!”

Peter responded to the God

who can be found

not only in triumph and success,

but also in utter failure

and along a lonely path.

Peter responded to the God

who can be found

in the beauty of the Temple,

and in the darkness of the tomb.

I take comfort in Peter’s faith,

his insight,

his quick answer.

He speaks for me when I cannot

and his words often resonate in my silence.

But I also take comfort in the knowledge

that even Peter


Even Peter,

the Rock,

the Keeper of the Keys,

the disciple entrusted

with the Church herself,

had his moments.

He was sometimes afraid.

Sometimes unsure.

Sometimes slow to grasp the truth

or speak his faith.

I take comfort in that, too.

“Who do you say I am?”


on days when my own voice falters

or fades into silence,

other voices--

voices of Peter, and Mary, and John.

Voices of Phoebe, and Paul, and Mark.

Voices of Martha, and Luke.

Voices of my parents and friends.

Voices from the pages of Scripture

and the Communion of Saints

speak up

Inviting me to say with them,

“You are Christ, the Son of the living God!”

60 views0 comments


bottom of page