Who do you say that I am? Our Lord is asking the disciples the very challenging and confronting question. If I was one of the 12 disciples, I don't know how I am going to answer his question. This question however strikes to the heart of the matter. Our answer to the question will determine what kind of disciple we are to Christ.
Christ is asking us the same question today: "Who do you say that I am?" I would like to invite you turning to the person right next to you to tell them what is your answer to the question.
Our answer can fall into 3 different levels:
1- First level is that, Do I have the correct answer if the Lord is asking us the same question today?
2-Second level is that, Is our answer based just on knowledge alone, from the head or from our encounter with Christ, from the bottom of our heart?
3-Third level is that, Does our lives reflect what we truly believe who Christ is? Do we live out our belief, live out our answer to the question? The Lord says: "Look at the fruit of the trees, you can tell what kind of trees they are."
Today, we celebrate the solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul. The first reading describes how James was killed by king Herod and Peter was arrested and waiting to be killed as well. This is the moment that Peter's answer to the question "who do you say that I am?" becomes significant. Even facing death does not deter him from his faith. This means that Peter loves Christ with all of his heart, with all of his mind, and with all of his strength. Christ is everything to him. Is Christ everything to us?
For Peter, having faith in Christ means going against what is considered popular at the time, going against their culture, and even going against what is legal because Christ is the truth, the way, and the life. We are called to do the same going against our popular culture. For example, if we are facing a divorce situation, Christ taught us marriage is for life, but our culture tells us that marriage is not permanent, so if you are not happy, leave your family, divorce one another. Are we willing to die for Christ and for his teaching? If we are, remain in our marriage. This is how we die for Christ just like Peter remaining faithful to Christ even facing torture and death. Now, the answer to the question "who do you say that I am?" becomes very crucial in our journey of life and faith.
The second reading describes how St. Paul lives his whole life for Christ and Christ alone. Paul sees himself as on a journey with only one destination, which is Christ. Since Christ is the sole purpose for Paul's live, Christ's teachings are the sole navigation and foundation for his life. This is why Paul is talking about "competing well, finishing the race", so that he can keep his faith. If Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, then the popular culture and the legality cannot be the way, the truth, and the life.
We might say well because St. Peter and St. Paul are the two foundational pillars of the Church, they can do this easily. We know that Peter has a history of denying Christ 3 times. Christ even rebuked Peter one time: "Get behind me, Satan". We also know that Paul used to be Christian persecutor before his conversion.
The key to their faithfulness to Christ is that they both encountered the resurrected Christ. Let us pray that we too can encounter the resurrected Christ in the Eucharist and in the Words of God ,so that we can become witness for Christ like Peter and Paul in our own time.
Pt Hoàng Thương