When I first got involved in church retreats I was always self-conscious that I must give the right answers. Everything was about knowing your catechism. When today’s question by Jesus came around, “Who do YOU say I am?”, I would look around sheepishly and search the floor for an answer. The little consolation to this was that I would have felt like the first disciples on a hot day in Caesarea Philippi when Jesus asked this question of them.
Like them, we need the right answer for the teacher. Unlike them, we have the answer in our books. The difference, and a life-changing difference this can be, is that we search the pages, while the disciples searched their real-life experiences. Then nothing had yet been written for them while today we are taught extensively from volumes of books. We too can give the right answer but the method of our arriving at the answer can be wrong.
“Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said, ‘the Son of the living God.’”
With the wrong process, getting the right answer in this case means naught. It does not bring out the value of what Peter’s declaration mean to our life on earth. Peter’s declaration came about through his personal experience of Jesus. He was further convinced when he witnessed the personal encounters of the disciples around him. Through these experiences and encounters, Peter enjoyed a personal relationship with Jesus.
To answer the question “Who do YOU say I am?”, we must close our books and open our hearts. It is not tough to see Jesus’ presence in our midst when we open the eyes of our heart. We have to respond to all he taught us, to change knowledge into experiences. We must live a life of love. It is in serving, giving and loving where we will encounter and experience him in the people around us and in ourselves. It is only when we allow love to flow through us that we establish a personal relationship with Jesus.
When we allow love to flow through us by loving freely and without prejudice, we hold the keys to unlock the faith life of people around us. By our actions we build the church. By allowing others to experience us, we bring Jesus into their midst. Through good actions, Jesus will be encountered every day in our lives. This is the simple truth when knowledge becomes faith and when religion becomes a lived experience.
Our faith must be hewn out of our daily experiences with Jesus. Through experiences, our personal relationship with Jesus will be rock solid “and the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it”.
The next time we are asked the question, we open only the book of wisdom. This book of wisdom is in our heart and etched by Jesus himself where each encounter with him is life-giving and life-changing. Through these pages we arrive at the declaration, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. Right answer, right method.
21st Sunday Ordinary Time