Homily: 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel: LK 9:18-24
Place: St Vincent de Paul, London
Date: 23 June 2013
“Who do the crowds say that I am” – a question that is rather untypical of Jesus. When we read the Gospels, we get the impression that Jesus does not seem to bother too much what others think of him. On the contrary: He refuses to fulfil their expectations, leaving many of his followers disappointed.
One by one, his disciples report what the crowds have to say about Jesus: He is John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the prophets. Jesus, however, wants to hear their personal opinion: “But who do you say that I am?” – That is the most important question. The focus is not about other people’s opinion on Jesus, what they think of him and with whom they compare him. What Jesus asks for in today’s Gospel is the personal commitment of every disciple, his and her personal profession of faith. How will they answer? Will they just repeat what others say or has their journey with Jesus so far helped them to form their own opinion?
As Christians, we have made a commitment to follow Jesus as apostles and servants of the Lord. Yet, Jesus challenges us with his question. He wants our personal response. “Who am I for you?” Jesus asks us. Sometimes we may wish to avoid this question. Somehow it does not feel quite right to come so close to Jesus. We are conscious of our shortcomings and weaknesses. But Jesus encourages us to come closer to him. He invites us into his friendship. Discipleship does not require perfection. Jesus calls us to follow him as the person we are. He knows us from his heart. We do not have to play a role. We can be totally honest with him. And Jesus will respond with love and acceptance.
It is important for us to reflect occasionally on this question: “Who is Jesus for me?” Unless we have found a clear answer to this question for ourselves, we will not be able to fulfil our task as apostles and prophets that has been given to us in our baptism. We are called to proclaim the Gospel, to evangelize, to invite others into faith.
Peter, for once, has been able to give an appropriate response: “You are the Christ of God.” It is striking that Jesus rebukes him and does not want him to speak to anyone about it. Why is this? Why can Jesus not accept Peter’s commitment?
It seems to me that Jesus wants to prevent Peter from proclaiming only part of the Gospel. Although Peter may think he now knows how Jesus is, the Messiah, it is likely that he understands only partially who Jesus really is. What his role as Messiah, as Christ really is. Peter may think of the Messiah as a political figure to end Roman occupation in Palestine. Jesus only knows that his role is different, that he is on the way to the cross. Therefore, he warns that following him is not an easy task. Discipleship comes with costs. The disciples must be ready to give everything for Jesus. I am not sure if Peter fully understands what it means when he says that Jesus is the “Christ” for him.
Jesus is close to us, but we cannot fully understand who he really is. Therefore, it is good to take the question “Who is Jesus for me?” to our heart and bring it to God in prayer. Jesus himself did pray, as we read at the beginning of today’s Gospel. When we keep on reflecting and praying ”Who is Jesus for me?”, we may one day be able to give the answer of Saint Peter in full conviction: “You are the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed One.”