“And you,” Jesus went on to ask,
“who do you say that I am?” Mk. 8:29
How do we explain to people who Jesus is? When the disciples are asked by Jesus, “who do you say that I am,” Peter’s response is, “You are the Messiah!” But what does it mean to be the Messiah. Jesus begins to teach them what it means. He had to suffer much, be rejected, put to death, and rise three days later. Peter knows that if his Messiah is going to suffer, so will his followers. So, Peter takes Jesus aside and begins to rebuke him.
Jesus answered Peter with the same words he used to call the sons of Zebedee: “Follow me” (translated now as, “Get behind me”). The implication was clear: If Peter and the rest believed that Jesus was the Messiah, then they had to trust Jesus to know how a Messiah should act. Jesus called disciples to introduce them to his way of living and to advance the venture he called the reign of God. Their story demonstrates that it takes a long time to grow into sharing Jesus’ priorities, but more important than their shortcomings is the fact that they stayed with him – and he with them.
Staying with Jesus, in spite of his warning that he and they would suffer, was what constituted that group as disciples. Having heard about the cost, they continued to listen to him.
What about today? How do we answer the question of who Jesus is? We can answer with our creed, but it is a pretty intellectual statement. The closest we get to an answer are statements: “For us…and for our salvation, he came down from heaven…For our sake he was crucified.”
If we want to answer the question with heart and soul as well as mind, we need to encounter Christ, walk with him and talk with him. In his latest apostolic exhortation, Pope Francis asks, “Are there moments when you place yourself quietly in the Lord’s presence, when you calmly spend time with him, when you bask in his gaze? Do you let his fire inflame your heart? (Gaudete et Exultate #151).
As Catholics, our poor tradition of reading Scriptures has left many unaware that the church “has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord’s Body” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #103). In light of that Francis reminds us that we can encounter Christ through prayerful reading of the Bible in which we allow God’s word “to enlighten and renew us.”
When we spend time encountering Christ and allow him to enlighten and renew us, our way of living will be our final answer to who we say he is. (Taken from Mary McGlone’s commentary in Celebration)