Who do you say that I am? XXIV Sunday in Ordinary Time

Who do you say that I am?  This may be one of the most important questions of all time!

Who do you say I am?
  • For some the disciples had talked to, Jesus was another great prophet like Elijah or Jeremiah (Mt 16:14).
  • For the disciples, Jesus enigmatically pushed them past the literal (Mt 16:7-12).
  • For Peter, Jesus was the Messiah . . . but not the right kind. Jesus was the vanquishing Saviour here to whip up on the Romans, not die on one of their crosses (Mt 16:16, 22).
Who is Jesus for you? Who do you say Jesus is? This doesn't mean rhyming off answers which we have learned or parroting off the experiences of others. Who do you say Jesus is? This is the question that all people must grapple with and answer. Your response to Him will determine not only your values and lifestyle, but your eternal destiny as well. That is the inescapable question.

Pedro Arrupe, SJ, would put it another way, saying:
"Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in a love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings, what you will do with your evenings, how you 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."
Yes, who Jesus is for you will determine what you do each do, the company you keep, the thoughts which occupy your mind, the reason for being who you are. 

Albert Schweitzer is famous for saying that the quest to determine who exactly Jesus was, apart from the Bible, is a futile one. It is like looking down into a well; all we see is our own reflection looking back. People have a tendency to mould Jesus into whatever we want him to be, and in the end he ends up looking a lot like us or at least what we would like to be. We may well ask who Jesus is, but he throws the question back to us: "Who do you say that I am?" (Mk. 8:27). And it is not a neutral question! It is a decisive question. If we know the story of Jesus we know that it is a life or death question. This interpretation hardly makes the question of who Jesus is easier to understand, we may well wonder what it means. Traditionally Jesus' question and Peter's answer have not just been regarded as historical matters 'back then'; they are about me now: God has made me in the image and likeness of His Son. What may I be? And what am I then called to be?

We live in a culture where we are so preoccupied about how others see us. Contemporary thinking says man is the product of evolution. But the Bible says we were created by a personal God to love, serve, and enjoy endless fellowship with Him. Personally I love the expression: “God loves us as we are but He does not leave us as we are!” He wants us to reach the fullness of life which He has promised us (Jn 10:10). It can be very hard because often “man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7). People live their lives (from early childhood) trying to overcome two things - their insecurities (fear of failure, success, what others think of them, etc.) and their need to protect their self image so they won't feel like a failure. We have all seen the various memes about: "how I see me, how the government sees me, how my friends see me...etc'.  We become conditioned by what others 'might' think and often we discover that what they 'actually' think about us is something completely different!

Seriously though, real maturity is when you can set all the hypothetical 'what if's' aside and truly live for the pure joy of living. You can enjoy life as it comes and every pothole does not have ominous consequences that are mentally played out before anything ever happens.  Having said all that as a disclaimer - the most common form of insecurity is people pleasing. However, Jesus was not a people pleaser but He preached the truth even when it was uncomfortable, which was most of the time!

So this Sunday, who do you say Jesus is for you? And who are you for Jesus?