Today’s gospel reading highlights two truths that are necessary and crucial in our Christian life on our path to discipleship: the place of Peter as a leader and the prerequisite for a disciple to be able to lead others to Jesus, namely, a personal and individual relationship with Jesus. I will start with the second truth since it is the leading force for fruitful discipleship.
Jesus asks his disciples about Him. “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” This question does not mean that Jesus would like to be aware about his own identity. No. He knows who he is: the Son of God. The purpose of the question is to lead his disciples from the point A to the point B, meaning from hearsay to a personal relationship and confession of who He is for all and each one of them. It is only insofar as they make that move that they can lead others to Him.
If today you were asked the same question, you would certainly say, and that is what over and over again we hear every day and week when we gather to worship, Jesus is savior, Jesus is messiah, Jesus is Son of God, or as we profess in the creed, Jesus is “God from God, light from light, true God from true God,” and so on. However, while all this is true, every profession of faith still remains at the level of hearsay as long as it is just a repetition of what we have been taught. It becomes alive when it changes to an expression of our own experience as we profess it. That is the path toward which Jesus is leading his disciples with this question. In other words, Jesus is saying, Yes, I hear you. You tell me what people say about me. But for you “Who do you say that I am?”
Our response to this question determines how each one of us relates to Jesus. Is he someone who loves me, forgives me, heals me? Is he someone I can trust as he wants only the best for me? Is he someone who has the authority to tell me how to live, what I should do, and what I may not do? Is he someone I look forward to spending eternity with? All these questions raise many other issues especially in our world today, particularly those about freedom and submission. However, these will be understood only as opportunities we are given to rediscover our own identity as disciples and children of God. Our personal experience of our relationship with Jesus is the leading power that gives us the strength to proclaim Him as the Son of God in whom we place our trust for everything.
As we see, Peter’s proclamation is said not to come either from human wisdom or from human knowledge. Jesus declares it processing from the Father. It embodies the power of the Holy Spirit that makes us shout and call God, Father, “Abba.” And it is only then that he can carry the responsibility of leading others to Jesus and to salvation. This is what it means for us to move from hearsay to personal experience of God’s love in Jesus; experience about which we can no longer remain silent. This is what it means for us today to move from consumerist church to a missionary church. That is whit it finally means for us to move from “pew occupant” to disciple. And this is our call today: If you proclaim Jesus as the Son of the Living God with whom you have a personal and particular relationship, will you grab the keys he hands you today to lead others to him?
Let us continue to pray for one another and for our parish family as we strive to grow in discipleship.