Sunday, June 28, 2009

But Who Do You Say That I Am

June 29, 2009

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles - Mass During the Day

On the very night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter, secured by double chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while outside the door guards kept watch on the prison. Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying, "Get up quickly." The chains fell from his wrists. Acts 12:6-7

He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Matthew 16:15


Lord, I try to bless you at all times but then I get distracted or someone sets me off and I slip away into my old habits. They do die hard if they die at all. Count me among your poor and open my ears and my mind so I will no longer be a poor listener. Magnify your work on earth through me and magnify my awareness of your presence in my life and the lives around me. As I seek you, I trust that you will answer my call and deliver me from the evils surrounding me. Help me to always look to God and reflect your goodness in my eyes, my smile, my mind and my heart. Send me companions who will free me from the prison of my personal passions and lead me to being close to you. Consume me so that I will know how good it is to live in your presence. Amen.


Today’s encounter between Peter and Christ defines “awe of the Lord” for me as it reveals a critical milestone and turning point in the narrative of the Gospel of Matthew.

We learn just a few verses that after this reading that Jesus strictly ordered them not to reveal the fact that he was the Messiah to anyone. In addition, now that the disciples know Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus has to prepare them for what was going to happen. From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. (Matthew 16:21) So let’s get back to what happened when this little boat was pulled to shore.

Imagine Jesus climbing out of that boat, getting his footing on the sand and gazing into Peter’s eyes. When he got the answer he desired from Peter, the Lord knew he was no longer rooted in shifting sand. Instead, he had solid ground upon which to proceed with his mission…a rock upon which he can build his church.

After talking with Peter, I’ll bet that the Lord checked in with the other passengers in the boat and those gathered at the beach. Turning to me, he asks the same questions with his penetrating brown eyes and engaging smile.

Sunday during Mass, our Joyful Noise choir sang, Pescador Des Hombres by Cesareo Gabarain a song which fits so nicely with this reading.

Lord, when you came to the seashore
You weren't seeking the wise or the wealthy,
But only asking that I might follow.
O Lord, in my eyes you were gazing,
Kindly smiling, my name you were saying;
All I treasured, I have left on the sand there;
Close to you, I will find other seas.

Jesus asks me (and you) the same questions he has for Peter and Paul because he still needs people to build his church.

What imprisons you?

What lion is intent on swallowing you?

What angel is waxing her wings to save you?

But who do you say that I am?

Is not our entire faith journey pivotal on the answer to this last question? If Jesus was just another priest, prophet, thief or king, nothing that occurred in Jerusalem would have mattered much to history and to us. It is only when we know the Lord, that the Lord knows us.

He knows what our boat carries. He doesn’t care what baggage is stowed there because he has need of our love and our labor. It is our hands that Jesus needs for service, our hearts for loving, and our arms for lifting the poor and broken.

Our journey is all about attaining the faith that Peter expresses in today’s Good News. That faith allows us to get close to the Lord, keep him with us and remain with Him. That faith is what we celebrate at the beginning and end of every Mass and every day between our celebrations.

At the start of every Mass, the celebrant proclaims, “The Lord be with.” His words and our answer to this question makes it so. At the end of Mass, the celebrant dismisses us with the message to keep the Lord with us until we return to the table again. “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” Thanks be to God.


I am. Jesus’ question today echoes God’s proclamation in the Hebrew Bible. Instead of delivering that identity to us, God seeks us. God wants to know what our faith tells us about our relationship with him.

Sunday’s Good News revealed the faith of the centurion Jarius and the woman with the hemorrhages. In both cases, their faith far exceeded the faith expressed by those closest to Jesus. However, Jesus was and is a magnet.

What is drawing out your faith?

How does your faith compare to theirs?

How would you answer the questions put to Peter on the beach in today’s reading?

Don’t be afraid to admit what I am thinking. I have a long way to go. Please be a companion on my journey.