Who Do You Say That I Am?
September 24, 2021 (readings)
- Friday of the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
- Fr. John Bullock, LC
Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’” Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said in reply, “The Messiah of God.” He rebuked them and directed them not to tell this to anyone. He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”
Opening Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, I am grateful for this opportunity to come before you in prayer. You know that I believe in you; that is why I am coming to you. However, you also know how much my faith needs to grow. I ask you for that grace to grow in my knowledge of you, to think more like you, and to trust you each day more. I also ask you to bless those souls entrusted to my prayer.
“Who Do The Crowds Say That I Am?”: Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.” Jesus’s first question was safe; it is a question about the beliefs of others. “Well, they believe this and that…” said the disciples, possibly even slightly scoffing at some of the theories out there. Similarly, today’s society is completely at ease conversing about religion at this level. “Well, the Buddhists believe this… and the Muslims believe that.” University professors who teach courses on religion or philosophy often take a similar approach—they survey the landscape of the various religions or philosophies, make a few interesting comments, and then leave it to the student to choose which they like best. The underlying message conveyed is that we cannot know the truth about God and man. That aversion is likely rooted not only in a belief that man cannot know the truth but also in a fear of commitment. A religion reduced to a theory can make no demands.
“Who Do You Say That I Am?”: Our Lord cuts to the chase by eliminating the casual theorizing: “But who do you say that I am?” Even adult cradle Catholics who believed as little children at some point must face the question directly, “Who is Jesus for me?” Otherwise, he or she runs the risk of reducing Jesus to a theory, a religion, or a tradition—ultimately void of meaning. However, if someone is willing to open up to Jesus with sincere and persistent prayer and study, he or she, like Peter, will recognize in Jesus “the Messiah of God.” Essential to such a search is the realization that it is not principally finding the truth as much as it is encountering a person. Mature faith is born from meeting Jesus Christ.
“The Messiah of God”: Once we recognize Jesus as the Messiah, the very Son of God, neutrality is no longer an option. We must either bend the knee or reject him. To bend the knee means to adore and to obey him. Our worship of Jesus brings us grace and gradually forms our hearts and minds to be more like his (Galatians 4:19). His words and his example become the criteria by which we act. “What would Jesus do?” should not be a cliché. It is also in living with Jesus and like Jesus that others will discover him through us. St. Paul writes, “yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus Christ, I thank you for the foundational gift of faith, which has led me to recognize you as the Messiah and the Son of God. Help me to continue to conform my heart and mind to yours through prayer and the sacraments. May my words and actions be a reflection of you, so that through me, others may come to know your goodness. Aware of my weakness, I place my confidence in your grace and fidelity.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will attentively review the specific virtues I am trying to live in imitation of you.
For Further Reflection: Read Jessica Fahy’s How Can I Practice Heroic Virtue?
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