Today’s gospel passage from Matthew is also told in Mark and Luke. Indeed, in Mark where Jesus asks his disciples “Who do you say that I am?”, it is the central passage of the gospel.
Many a retreat and many a day of reflection are devoted to this question of Jesus, as addressed to me, “Who do you say that I am?”
And it’s no wonder that we give it plenty of time for reflection. We need time because the answer to it determines our whole lives. Our relationship with Jesus, the meaning of our life, our commitments… all depend on our answer.
To come at it slowly, we might start with a question addressed to ourselves: “Who am I?” It’s not so easily answered, is it? You can give your name, your background etc. but it’s not enough. Nor is a photograph. Knowledge is the result of experience, not of characteristics. It is our life experience in the present moment that guides us in our answer.
Self-appropriation is one name for it; perhaps self-awareness is better still. But even that is inadequate. The answer that we come up with therefore is “I am a mystery.” Mystery, not in the sense of strange, but rather something not quite known that is constantly revealing new things about itself. And it’s a joyful path, though often arduous, this path of self-discovery. Each of us is a mystery open to constant exploration and discovery to ourselves.
Thus, when we turn to answer Jesus’ question, we can expect this experience of mystery. And so it is in Matthew where Peter replies “You are the Messiah” (to a significant stage known) and then adds “the Son of the Living God” (somewhat known but so much unknown). The two together show the depth of the reply, the experience from which the reply is drawn, in short, the mystery, beautiful in its ever-greater discovery of Jesus, fellow traveller of Peter. And of all of us
Let me offer three questions to ‘bathe in’, in a prayerful manner:
- How do you answer your own personal question “Who do I say that I am?
- How do you answer Jesus’ question “Who do you say that I am?”
- What was Jesus’ answer to his own question, his answer to “Who do I, Jesus, say I am?” Make sure to remember that we understand Jesus as both human and divine.