Today’s passage from St. Matthew’s account of the Gospel gives us much to ponder and consider about our own belief about and in Jesus, and how we in turn display and present that belief.
In once sense, I suppose, we can identify with the disciples in this episode, because they are called not only to ‘report’ back to Jesus what the crowds say about him – they are called upon to stand up and profess their own understanding of Jesus.
The disciples tell Jesus, when He asks them, that the people say he is a resurrected John the Baptist, or the prophet Elijah, or the prophet Jeremiah, or one of the other great prophets of the Sacred Scriptures from the history of the children of Israel. The people only claim at this point that – if not a miraculous ‘reincarnation’ of one of the prophets of their history – that Jesus is really only one in a long line of prophets.
Prophets are human agents through which God has spoken to and taught His people – but they are still only human beings; nothing more. How often have we heard this repeated in our own day, that Jesus is just another in a long line of wise ‘teachers’ or ‘philosophers’ or ‘prophets’ – just another human (albeit a special one) among many others.
But Jesus becomes more pointed in his question to the disciples;”but, who do you say that I am?’ He doesn’t want to know what others are saying now – He wants to know what the disciples say.
In asking this, He is asking the disciples two things, really; to claim and to proclaim. He wants to know who they claim He is to themselves, and who they proclaim to others that He is.
And of course it is St. Peter who boldly says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus points out the revelatory nature of this – it is not simply by human reckoning or deductive reasoning that Peter has come to this conclusion. It has been revealed to Him by the Spirit of God. It is a grace moment. It is a gift of faith.
Every day, in all of our thoughts, words and actions, we are asked by Jesus, ‘who do you say I am?’
“Who do you claim me to be in your heart? Another teacher? A wise sage?
Or like Peter to you understand in your heart that I am the Son of the living God?”
If we answer ‘yes’ to that second question, that we claim in our hearts that Jesus is the Son of the Living God, then He calls upon us to proclaim that to anyone and everyone we meet in our everyday life. We are to live out that claim, to proclaim it to the world.
If we claim the name of Christian, we are claiming to believe that Jesus is God, and if so, then it is incumbent upon us to proclaim Him as such. Jesus acknowledged His true nature in His response to Peter’s proclamation that Jesus was the Son of the living God.
Yet like St. Peter, this intimate knowledge of Jesus comes to us through faith, a free gift of God, in which the true nature of Christ is revealed to us by the Father.
We can, and are expected, to use our own reason to come to an understanding of who Jesus is; but ultimately it requires a step beyond our own human reasoning – it requires a leap of faith. That faith is there for the asking, if we only have the courage to ask for it in prayer, and be open to the truth that God reveals.
God reveals Himself in Jesus to us that we might claim Him as our own – and it is in that conviction, fueled by faith and courage that we proclaim Him to others.
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!