Who do you say I am? – Twenty First Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus is asking us today to formulate our own personal response to the question of who we say he is. It would be easy to answer his question – But who do you say that I am? – with a standard catechetical response.
Jesus’ disciples spoke of John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or another prophet. But Jesus wanted more from them. Peter’s profession of faith seemed to meet with Jesus’ approval.
No doubt they would each have their unique response, based on what they had heard and seen of Jesus in their travels with them.
What are our replies based on? There could be elements from things we have read or been taught or heard in homilies. Hopefully we would be able to add a few words based on our prayer and reflections.
Many of us would probably identify a key phrase or action from the Gospels and use it to speak of the ways that Jesus Christ in incarnate in our contemporary culture. Our response to Jesus probably looks different at times throughout our life, depending on our age, experience and particular life situations.
The account today centres around Peter’s statement, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. This is a pivotal moment in the disciples’ relationship with Jesus.
Jesus commends Simon Peter, acknowledging the divine inspiration, not just flesh and blood. Jesus utters his famous line, You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church.
This account shows an important turning point in Peter’s comprehension of what his friendship with Jesus will mean for him with his vocation and role in the early Church.
Peter’s journey in his relationship with Jesus is revelatory. It develops throughout the Gospel, but Peter never fully moves beyond his weakness, fear and sinfulness. He is called to a particular role, precisely in his imperfection.
A good idea for a directed retreat sometime is to pray with the development of Peter’s faith throughout his relationship with Jesus and in the years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. See how he grows into a greater leadership role for the Christian community.
The hope is that we also grow and develop. We move from a childhood understanding of Jesus, to a mature comprehension whereby we discern our own unique ways of bring the message and dreams of Jesus Christ to our world. We remain sinners, but we are still called to play our role.
People who pray with the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius spend some intense days reflecting on their sin – both the more general sin of the world and their particular history of sin and the hurt it has caused.
At one point Ignatius says, This is an exclamation of wonder and surging emotion, uttered as I reflect on all creatures and wonder how they have allowed me to live and have preserved me in life.
The meditation immediately after the prayer on my sin and God’s mercy goes further. It’s not just that I have been preserved, but that I am called precisely in that reality.
The famous Contemplation of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ suggests that I pray for the grace not to be deaf to his call, but prompt and diligent to accomplish the most holy will.
St Peter recognized his sinful nature, but he also acknowledged the role he would play in the history of the Church.