Yes, I mean you – Jesus is asking you: “Who do YOU say that I am?” He’s not looking for the answer you learned at your Mama’s knee or the Catholic catechism answer; Not what the says say or the bumper stickers, or the easily accessible Internet.
Jesus made his first question easy – who do people say I am? The disciples parroted back what they’d heard others say, but Jesus pushes them to move to what they are hearing without their own being: “But you, who do you say that I am?” Like the disciples, each of us must answer the question for ourselves based on our own lived faith experience AND God’s word revealed in the privacy of your lectio-moments of intimate conversation with God.
Jesus commends Peter for his profession of faith but notice: He credits the insight coming from God. He does not say: “Finally, you get it!” No, ever the humble Son, he gives deference to his Father. There’s no display of false humility with a reaction like “You really think so?” He doesn’t deflect Peter’s words as if denying them. He models for us a loving example of understanding: “It’s not all about me.”
The answer to Jesus’ query is always within a context. Here’s what I mean –
- Who do we say Jesus is in light of the violence in our country?
- Who do we say Jesus is in the wake of the killing of police officers and smashing cares into crowds of people and the continuing unrest between nations?
- Who do we say Jesus is when a loved one dies, the doctor gives news we didn’t want to hear, when days are grey of our life seems to be falling all apart?
- Who do we say Jesus is when we are faced with decisions that have no easy answers, when the night is dark and the storms of life overwhelm us, when faithfulness means risking it all and taking a stand against a louder and seemingly more powerful voice?
Who we say Jesus is has everything to do with who we are. In some ways our answers says as much or more about us than about Jesus. It reveals how we live and what we stand for. It guides our decisions, and determines the actions we take and the words we speak. We need constantly remind ourselves: “It’s not what people look at, it’s what they see; not what we say but what they hear.” Like the TV ad for a local hospital “What they remember is the feeling.” One harsh words can undo all the holy words we said in chapel. One snub in order not to sit next to someone or refusal to give up “my seat” for a guest will not go unnoticed. One unkind deed will stick tighter in the memory than all the hugs and kisses, and smiles and compliments and good-bye blessing songs. If visitors stay long enough they may see us in our most embarrassing moments, but they also see the love and acceptance we experience in our community life. One writer puts it: the community loves us and keeps us anyway despite all our warts.
In some sense there is no once and for all, finally and forever answer to Jesus query. We are always living the questions: Who am I? Who do you say that I am? Who Jesus was when I was a child is different from who he was when I was in my 30s or who he is for me today. Hopefully, who he is for me next year will be different from who he is today. It’s not that Jesus has changed, or will change. I have, or will. We are constantly engaging his questions in so doing, we not only discover Jesus anew we discover ourselves anew.
Try holding up the mirror – turn the question around, ask Jesus: “Who do you say that I am – why do you love me so much?
Jesus’ life and presence among us calls into question everything about our lives, our world. That’s why we ought not answer his question too quickly, too glibly, or with too much certainty. It’s not a question to be figured out as much as it is a question to be lived. “You, who do you say that I am?” S. Roberta Bailey, OSB
First Reading Isaiah 22:19-23 * Second Reading Romans 11:33-36
Gospel Matthew 16:13-20