Who do we say that Jesus is?

Tom Bartolomeo
©Tom Bartolomeo
24th Sunday Ordinary B
Isaiah 50: 5-9a;
Psalm 116;
James 2: 14-18;
Mark 8: 27-55
Reproduced with Permission

We heard in today's gospel perhaps the most important question God ever asked, "Who do people say that I am?" None of the answers Jesus' disciples gave then were correct, ". . . John the Baptist . . . Elijah . . . [or] one of the prophets." Then Jesus asked his disciples, "But who do you say that I am?" Suddenly a defining moment. How would they answer?

Only one disciple, thankfully, gave the right answer, Peter who said in Matthew's gospel: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God, and Jesus replied,

'Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not
reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven', Matthew 16: 15-17.

Unfortunately, later speaking on his own after Jesus had foretold them, "that the Son of Man must suffer . . . and be killed and be raised up on the third day", Peter blurted out, "God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You" and elicited Jesus' condemnation, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do," Matthew 16,21-23.

We are called to think and act as God not as human beings if we claim to be his children. Children, we know, especially young children mimic their fathers and mothers, imitate their thinking and actions at least in part obeying the 4th Commandment, "Honor thy father and thy mother". It is no less true for the Son of God who tells us, "he who has seen me has seen the Father" and "I am the way, the truth and the life" of my Father, John 9, 6-9.

Implicit in the question, "who do you say that I am?" is another question turned back on us, "Who do people say that we are?" or "Who does God say that we are?" How, for instance, in moments of crisis have we asked others, "Who do you think that I am?" - often a defining moment in our relationship with another. Something we learn that we should not take for granted. And we all know how badly that can turn out. Usually involves suffering which Peter had at first denied, "that we, too, must suffer . . . [to ] be raised up on [our final] day."

We have all heard at one time or the other Jesus' command, "Unless you take up your cross and follow me you can not be my disciple." Who would people say we were or who would God say we are were we engaged in the 'religion of politics' - those Catholics, for instance, who at a recent political convention broadcast to the nation, "I am Catholic" and I support the "reproductive rights" of women, contraception, abortion and sterilization?

Our suffering in this world, however, is not devoid of joy. At the Last Supper Jesus' choose his final words, carefully:

Truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is in travail she has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when she has delivered of the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a child is born into the world. So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you, John 16:20-22.

It is noteworthy, as well, that Christ when he had risen from the dead and appeared before his disciples he greeted them, "Peace be with you". Not only his but their sorrow had turned into joy. Of all the possible parables and analogies Jesus could employ he couched his final words and encouragement in the experience of a woman and her husband bringing into God's world the joy of a new life for the population of heaven and a share of His glory.

Summary of homily

We are challenged daily to think like God, live in the presence of God especially in difficult and distracting circumstances and consider the finality of our lives.