He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
I have divided my homily into three parts by asking three pertaining questions. Q1. Who is St. Peter? Q2. Who do people say I am? And Q3. Who do you say I am?
Who is St. Peter?
What significance does this question have? Today there is a lot of hue and cry over the authority of the Pope. Imagine when you read the morning newspaper you read a headline which says that the General of the Indian Army feels that there is no reason to defend our country. Will we not be surprised and shocked? Same thing happens with regard to the Holy Father and his authority. Many including Catholics and even the Clergymen who are supposed to defend the Pope, do question the authority of the Pope. For all these people, today’s gospel gives a clear answer. We all know this character called Peter. He represents some of us who keep messing up things again and again in our life. Everyone misspeaks occasionally. Peter does so daily. He blurts wrong words like a whale spouts salt water, spraying folly everywhere. He always hurts someone. Oh, Peter and his quick-triggered tongue. This is the kind of person our Lord chooses to lead his Church. He gives him the authority to bind people with laws. He gives him the keys of heaven. Keys are the emblems of authority and this language was addressed to Peter because of the Power that was to be conferred on him. He was to organize, toil, and manage the affairs of kingdom as the Head, of course not absolutely but under Christ the Head. Among the Jews when a scribe was admitted to his office a key was given to him as the symbol of duty he was expected to perform.
Today we have Benedict XVI the 265th Pope who is known for his intelligence and erudition. When the Pope teaches from the chair of St. Peter on issues concerning faith and morals, it binds the whole Church. He is also called the Bishop of Rome, which means anyone who is the Bishop of Rome is also the Pope. Why Rome? What is so very special? It is simply because tomb of St. Peter is in Rome. We as Christians have the responsibility not only to pray for our Holy Father but also to defend Him when he is attacked by enemies of the Church.
Who do People say I am?
Any Communication gets completed only when there is a feedback. Jesus being a good communicator wanted to get the feedback from his disciples. Feedback can be both positive as well as negative. He just asks his disciples to know what exactly the people think of him. The feedback given by the disciples is quite positive. Some call him Elijah, John the Baptist, Jeremiah. He was considered to be one of the prophets. Surely it is a compliment for Jesus and His mission.
This is an important lesson we need to learn from Jesus. As human beings, and more specifically as Christians we live in communities. We do not live in isolation. Therefore we cannot be too individualistic in our attitude. We should be mindful of what other people think about us and our way of living. Though we do not live for the sake of others, we also do not live only for our sake. If majority of our community members feel that our way of life is not that okay, we need to pay proper attention to that feedback. If many our community members point out to us saying that we seldom attend Sunday mass, we do not live a proper life worthy of a Christian etc., we should not ignore their view totally by shunning them. There could be some traces of truth in that. Jesus was ready to listen to the feedback.
We need not know everything about us. There are certain things which only when somebody points out to us, we will come to know. We see the whole world and the reality around us, using our eyes, we cannot see our own eyes. We need mirror to see our eyes. People with whom we live might serve as mirror at times. Therefore we should also take suggestions of people into consideration.
Who do you say I am?
Last year I went along with my friend to watch one of the league matches of IPL. I was longing to see Sachin playing. I was delighted throughout the match and came back home happily. Many asked me about the match and I was happy to share my personal experience with them. I was describing Sachin for quite a long time. Suddenly, someone a critique of cricket asked me, ‘Did you get his mobile number? I gave him a strange look. He continued. Do you have his email id? Do you know his house address? And finally asked me, do you really know him? This made me to reflect deeper. I know Sachin for a long time. I know how many centuries he has made but do I really know him? Is he related to me? Does he know my name?
We come for mass, and sit like spectators in the stadium, sing songs if we know, partly listen to sermons and then go away. We might know how many miracles Jesus did; where he was born; we might know the names of his parents, and so many other minute details. But do we really know him. On your way back home after the mass, if a non-Christian brother/sister asks you why do you go every Sunday to the Church, what answer will you give? Some of us might emphatically say, we go to receive Jesus Christ. But if that person asks you again, ‘who is this Jesus? Do we have an answer for that question? Will that answer come from our personal experience?
Who is Jesus Christ? To the banker, hidden treasure (Mt 13, 44), To the builder, one foundation (Is.26,16), To the carpenter, door (Jn. 10, 7), To the doctor, great physician (Jer.8, 22), To the educator, great teacher (Jn. 3, 2), To the engineer, new and living way (Hb.10, 20), To the farmer, sower and Lord of harvest (Lk, 10, 2), To the florist, rose of Sharon (song of songs (2, 1). This list is endless. But Jesus asks us today, who do you say I am? If we do not have an answer that comes immediately from our heart, probably it is the high time to enter into a personal relationship with Him. Let us move from the level of knowing about Jesus to Knowing Jesus.