Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ And they answered him, ‘John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’ He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.’ And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’
Jesus asked his disciples: Who do people say that I am?
It is a sad reality that most of the communities in which we live are damaged by gossip and rumour. Even Christian communities struggle to get along day by day because Christ’s commandments to love God and neighbour are set to one side by those who prefer to speculate and vilify. People are reduced to the subject of negative conversation and ill-informed judgemental pronouncements. It is a sad reality that most of the communities in which we live are damaged by gossip and rumour.
Like most parents I have memories of some of the things my children said when they were young. One memory that I particularly treasure came at the end of an ordinary day. I asked my daughter what she had been doing at school? She said something like, ‘Just the usual.’ I asked if anything special had happened? She said, ‘No.’ I then asked, ‘Don’t you have any gossip then?’ Her reply to that question is one that I treasure to this day. She looked me straight in the eye and enquired, ‘What is gossip?’ What a fantastic world she was living in, an innocent world where only the reality of day-to-day activities were worth repeating.
Today Jesus is asking his disciples what the ‘gossip’ is about him. Even though Peter will go on to say: You are the Messiah, we hear Jesus ask what other people are saying about him. In response to Jesus’ question we are offered a catalogue of gossip and speculation, rumour and guesswork. It is only Peter who is able to give a good account of himself.
Today we are being invited to consider our response to Jesus’ question and to remain steadfast, should our answer align with that of Peter. No matter what alternative story we may choose to tell about Jesus, and no matter which false account we may choose to engage with, we are called to recognise and proclaim Jesus as the Son of God; we are called to step away from the negativity of those who think they know better! Just as we are called to step aside from those who use their minds and their tongues to vilify the faithful and the innocent.
Let us pray that we might find the strength of character and the moral courage to leave the negative and the evil with their true master, Satan. Let us pray that we might never hesitate to proclaim Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God.
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