Son of the Living God – Sunday 21 Year A
The city of Caesarea Philippi was named in honour of the Roman conquerors of Palestine. This gospel episode took place in the shadow of the statue to Caesar that towered above it. When Simon Peter cried out that Jesus was the Christ, the Anointed One, the ‘Messiah’ – ie. the one who had come to throw the Romans out and establish the rule of God in Israel, Jesus may have placed a finger over his lips as they all looked up in puzzlement at Caesar’s statue. How could anyone from Nazareth bring it all down?
“Who do you say that I am?” is the central question directed to the followers of Jesus in all ages. “Who am I?” is a question that’s fundamental to every human person, follower of Jesus or not. We have known about Jesus since our earliest years. We could ask ourselves what our life experience of Jesus has meant to us. Has it meant sharing my faith, deepening my understanding of the gospel, supporting my parish community, donating time, treasure and talent to those in need? Do I relate to Jesus as just another religious figure, or is he something more?
We can envisage Jesus in different ways depending on the language and experience we bring. I could see him like a child would see him – serious, likeable and not claiming any significant part of my time or attention. I might see him as a miracle worker and healer, and someone I could turn to. Or I might see him as humanity’s best expression of itself and calling me to ‘have that mind which was also in Christ Jesus’ – Phil 2,5. I might, indeed, get a glimpse of God the Father in this ‘Son of the Living God.’ It’s important to see him through the lens of our life experience.
If I have a pain in my back and the doctor tells me I have arthritis, I’ll feel better because I now know what ails me. If I see a psychiatrist about it and am told that I’m suffering from a mid-life crisis, I’ll have a richer understanding of the pain. But if I see a spiritual counsellor who tells me it’s my Gethsemani, my cross to bear, then I can link my pain to Jesus’ pain. All three diagnoses speak of the same pain but each uses different language and symbols. The language we use to understand an experience indicates what the experience means to us.
We can be suffering from arthritis or we can be sweating blood in Gethsemani. We can have a job we don’t like or we can have a vocation we love. So it is with who Jesus is and what he means for us. Is he ‘out there’ and in our heads, and not really affecting our lives, or has he become part of our inner conversation – “Who are you? What was your first reaction when you saw people suffering? Why did you take on this role?”
Fr. QQ – 8/19/2020