Readings: Isaiah 22:19-23; Psalm 138; Romans 11:33-36; Matthew 16:13-20
Life generally is full of questions, and so is scripture. The word “question” is a derivative of the Latin quaerere which means to ‘search’ or ‘seek’. Thus, to ask a question is to search or seek (for answers) and he who searches will almost always find (Mat 7:7). The gospel reading of today’s Mass contains two very important questions, which shall be the focus of our reflection. First, Jesus asked, “Who do people say I am?” then secondly, he asked, “But who do you say I am?” From these questions, we shall take two lessons.
Lesson 1: Spirituality is a private matter
Knowing Jesus is and must be a very personal matter to each and every Christian. While on a general, common level, we can all know about Jesus, to know Jesus is a different matter and must happen on a personal level. This implies that there is a huge difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus. As we see in the gospel reading, when Jesus asked “Who do people say I am”, it was easy for his disciples to relate the people’s opinions of Jesus. Their answers were easy and shallow because they only knew about Jesus. But when Jesus asked the deeper question, “But who do you say I am”, his disciples fell silent. At this point, Jesus was no longer asking of the common, general opinion about him; Jesus made the question personal, and then they must have realized they may not even have truly known this man they have been following everywhere. What this reveals to us is that simply knowing about Jesus breeds superficiality in spirituality but knowing Jesus on a personal level leads to ruggedity in spirituality. We can know about Jesus by simply reading about him, hearing what our parents, teachers and the church are all saying about him and following the superficial crowd spirituality as it relates to him. However, to personally know Jesus, we need to consciously make the effort to move away from that crowd knowledge to a personal, deeper knowledge of him which is built on a personal encounter with him. It is in this personal encounter that we develop a true spirituality. Thus, knowledge about Jesus should necessarily lead to knowledge of Jesus. Sadly however, many Christians are comfortable with this mediocre level of knowledge and relationship with Jesus; they show no interest in having a personal relationship with Jesus, which answers the question, “Who do you say I am”, but prefer rather to remain at the shallow level of “Who do people say I am.” Every Christian knows about God, but only very few Christians know God. The word of God invites us today to seek to establish a personal, deeper relationship with Him, and we can do this by giving him space in our lives and by seeking to walk by his precepts daily.
Lesson 2: Knowledge of God leads to true knowledge of self
If we seek to know God on a personal level, He will help us to discover our true value. As we see in the gospel reading, Peter did not know that he carried in himself, the potential of being the rock and the head of the church and the keeper of the keys of the gates of heaven till he met Jesus. In other scriptural instances, Moses did not know that he could lead a great nation as Israel until he encountered God; Gideon was hiding from the Midianites, not knowing that God made him to be a man of valour, until he met God; Jeremiah did not know he carried the fire of a great prophet until God called him; Isaiah did not know that despite his unclean lips, he was to be one of the greatest prophets in Israel until he encountered God. They were content with where they were until they met God and he showed them it was not their true place. Many of us will never get to know our true value in life until we enter into a relationship with God. If you know and confess God, he will reveal to you, your true value. However, so that this does not happen, the devil will try to deceive you into remaining a mediocre Christian who is okay with just coming to church and going without building a strong personal relationship with Jesus. My challenge to you today is to seek to rise above being a nominal Christian; make every effort to move into a level of deeper union with God. Until you truly know God, you may never truly know who you are and what you carry inside you.