Today’s gospel reading opens with Jesus asking: What are people saying about me?
His disciples replied with the latest gossip about Jesus: You are being lined up with the great prophets of Jewish antiquity.
But … such gossip was of no interest to Jesus;
Jesus wanted to take his disciples to a deeper place,
a place miles away from the superficial and the easily manipulated.
That is why Jesus asked: But who do you say that I am?
Then … in blundered Peter with what, to him, seemed the blindingly obvious answer: You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.
Of course, Peter had the ‘right’ answer.
But … if Peter had the right answer, why did Jesus sternly order them to keep quiet about this exciting truth?
In fact, Jesus’ reaction to Peter’s words reveals something very important about our own journeys of faith.
It is, as most of us know, easy to ‘say’ the ‘right’ words; but …
it is not easy to grasp, and to put into action, the truths that lie behind those words …
If you are not sure what I mean by that, here are a few examples for you to consider:
Love your enemy;
Take up your cross;
When it comes to such fundamental matters of faith, meaning and understanding are important.
So … what does it mean to say that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One of God?
is not a description of just any person;
it is not a title;
it is certainly not Jesus’ surname!
Christ is a word that names the divine energy that was released into the world through the earthly life of Jesus.
The earthly life of Jesus brought into this world –
creative, transforming and inspiring goodness.
The earthly life of Jesus brought the energy of God himself into our midst.
That is, the divine energy of God which we are offered as a gift, a gift that we desperately need.
We are all challenged by the twists and turns of our daily lives, but …
to believe in the omnipresence of God’s love and grace is also to believe in the centrality of forgiveness and kindness.
For some, sharing Christ is about preaching on street corners and reeling off selected verses from the bible –
I cannot accept that that is about sharing the real Christ with others!
We share the reality of Christ’s presence in this world through our willingness to perform Christ-like actions …
we are all called to find ways in which we can release even more Christ-centred light and energy into the dark and troubled corners of this world.
In an old Jewish tale, a rabbi asked his students how they could tell that a new day had dawned upon the earth.
Trying to be clever, the students talked about there being enough light to recognize the different elements of God’s creation.
After a long pause the rabbi sighed, shook his head, and said:
It is a new day when there’s enough light for you to see the face of another human being, and, looking upon that face, you see your brother and sister. Until that happens – it is still night.
In Christian terms we might say:
It is a new day every time we see the face of Christ in another human being –
no matter who or what they may be.
It is easy to say that Jesus is the Son of God, but …
what does that really mean to us?
Have we discovered and received the divine energy that we have been given through the earthly life of Jesus Christ?
And … are we ready to reflect and share that divine energy through the way we live out our own earthly lives?
And … are we ready to see the face of Christ in everybody we meet?
If the answer is ‘Yes’ to those demanding questions, then we are ready to stand before Jesus and answer his question: Who do you say that I am?
We are also ready to shine with the light of Christ where the world is at its darkest.
It is my prayer that we might all know that dazzling energy today, and for the rest of our earthly lives.
And, if we are not quite there, I pray that we may learn the humility to set aside our human self-assurance and willingly receive the greatest gift of all times – the undeserved grace of God which is ours for the taking.