But who do you say that I am? -24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s Gospel features a significant question from Jesus. He is quizzing his followers about who people say he is. They provide answers. However, Jesus pushes them further and his question becomes about who they say he is. “But who do you say that I am?”
I always read that line with an imaginary bold-faced you. I believe that Jesus is addressing that personal question to Peter and every believer, each one of us included. Jesus is more-or-less putting each of us on the spot. He is asking for a commitment.
We do not have to be part of any Christian denomination to make that commitment. It’s a personal thing that often has nothing to do with church. But most of us live out our faith in the context of a church community. And that is often where difficulties can surface. Our personal response gets tied up with other issues in the life and governance of the Christian community.
It requires strong faith and courage to stay committed to Jesus in the context of the church today. The sinfulness of its structures and many of its leaders is glaringly evident. There are plenty of reasons to simply walk away from church.
I’ve read numerous pieces in recent weeks, written by women and men who are asking the question, can I remain in the church, in spite of all that has been exposed? Numerous colleagues and friends have asked me that question. To be honest, I’ve been asked that area most of my forty years as a Jesuit. I’ve never had a standard answer. My response depends a lot on the present situation in the church and my own life situation.
There have been times when I have felt like walking away, turning aside from the church. I remember being asked by someone if I would remain a committed Catholic if I were not ordained.
That’s a tough one! I have a love/hate relationship with church. But I never succeed in walking away. Something brings me around. I think that it’s related to Jesus’ probing question. And my decision to remain in the priesthood, with all of its sinfulness and imperfections, is that I witness over and over the good that happens to people who benefit from the ministry of women and men in the church.
I am absolutely certain that if I had a personal experience of being abused by a member of the hierarchy, I would have walked away. I can understand and accept the pain and anger of the many women and men who have suffered abuse. And, I am aware that I am a white male priest. I feel totally inadequate writing of why I remain in a sinful church. Surely, by my very gender and position, I am part of the problem.
I’m not sure what I would do if I were a woman. I can understand why women would walk away from church. I’m always surprised that so many choose to stay and to be involved with the life of the church.
Jesus’ probing question challenges me to keep asking why I remain committed to my faith in Jesus. I hope that my service in the church can help people to find freedom and hope with their life issues.