21st SUNDAY A
Who do you say I am? What a deep and searching question Jesus asks Simon Peter. I doubt if Jesus was looking for a theological answer from the fisherman, nor was he looking for a comparison with his hero, John the Baptist, or any of the prophets. Jesus wanted something more personal from him. ‘Simon Peter, do you know what it means for me to be me?’ That’s the heart of all friendship – the desire to know and be known by one’s friend. The question is asked of us all. Who is Jesus for you and for me? Jesus wants us to know not only everything about him, such as where he was from, who his parents were, his life story to date and the miracles he did etc., but more importantly what it means and feels like to be him. Personal relationship is two-way and involves two people knowing, experiencing and appreciating each other. Jesus wants to be known and loved by us his followers.
Who do you say I am? Who do people say the Son of Man is? Who do you say I am? Who is Jesus Christ for me? Acquaintance, hero, someone I admire, platonic friend, boon companion, trusted and inseparable friend. Following Christ is not about allegiance to a set of doctrines or fidelity to Church practices. “Eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” – John 17: 3. A former Father General of the Jesuits, the late and famed Pedro Arrupe, said this at the end of his life: “Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute and final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will influence everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evening, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.”
Who do you say I am? At the annunciation the angel Gabriel told Mary her child-to-be “Will be great, and will be called Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and his kingdom will have no end.” Even though she accepted her role, Mary’s understanding of her baby-to-be would, at that stage, have been incomplete. Years later, when the boy Jesus went missing in Jerusalem for three days, his mother’s question and Jesus’ response showed his parents did not yet appreciate “the reality of Christ” – Colossians 3:17. The conversation with the woman at the well pushed them both beyond their tribal identities as Jew and Samaritan. She found the question of Jesus’ identity pressing heavily on her heart: “Come and see a man who has told me everything I ever did; I wonder if he is the Christ.” She, like Peter and Jesus’ parents, was given the grace to understand that Jesus is the reality of God.
Scripture scholar Fr Kieran O’Mahoney: “When Jesus presses the question, ‘Who do you say I am?’ we feel him speaking to us. Naturally, we think of our faith now in the light of our own journey of life and pilgrimage of faith. How did I start out? What was my image of Jesus Christ then and how did I relate to him? Have there been major turning points for me and can I name one or two? How have I deepened my familiarity with Jesus and who is he for me now? If I were to choose an image or a metaphor what would come to mind? If I were to explain to someone what my faith in Jesus is, what words would I use?”
Fr. QQ – 08/24/2023