Commentary for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Who is He?
“Who do people say that I am?” The fact that this is the question we hear Christ ask His apostles today tells us a great deal about who He is and the truth of His mission. As much as this is a familiar passage for us, the question is a strange one for an itinerant rabbi. We might expect a travelling teacher to ask questions of His students, but we would expect his questions to focus on his teaching. Have the disciples understood the lessons? Have the teachings been getting through to the crowds? Are there points that need further clarification, or questions that still remain? We would certainly not expect someone entirely committed to the purpose of conveying a message to make a big deal about what people think of him personally. It seems vain perhaps, or at least off topic. Yet Christ stops His disciples along the road in order to ask them this exact question: who do people say that I am? The nature of His mission is such that this question is in fact incredibly important. Christ did not come just to bring a message or to do and encourage good works. He came so that people might meet Him and believe in Him, and so find eternal life. His identity as the true Son of the Father is His mission.
“Who do you say that I am?” Since the purpose of Christ’s mission is that we should meet Him and so find salvation, we each must answer this question for ourselves. Who do I say that Jesus Christ is? Do I, along with the world, say that He is a political activist, religious reformer, wandering preacher, wonder worker, healer, philosopher, or simply the nicest of guys? Do I say that He is something respectable, but ultimately merely human, merely inspirational? Do I, along with Peter, say that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God? Do I say, along with the Church, that He is God Himself among us in the flesh, true God and true man, the only-begotten Son of the Father, the Word through whom all things were made, the King of Kings, the Lord of all, the Lamb slain for my soul, the Way, the Truth, and the Life of my own heart? The answer to this question determines everything for my soul, both in time and in eternity. To be Christian is to stake our life on the identity of Jesus of Nazareth. May God grant us the grace to do so with boldness, joy, and the gratitude that gives invincible courage.
Fr. Joseph Rampino