The Voice of My Faith

Who Do People Say I Am?

If you recall last Sunday's Gospel reading (Matthew 16:13-20), you heard Jesus ask his friends, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" They responded with various answers: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Then Jesus asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter bravely stepped forward and confessed, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." His testimony was magnificent and inspiring. Peter’s admission gives him a special place among Jesus' closest friends. However, the story doesn't conclude with glory and grandeur. The Gospel for today (Matthew 16:21-27) comes immediately following Peter's confession.

Jesus' Mission

Jesus reveals to his friends the deep significance of his mission as the Son of God and what it means for their journey together. He foretells that he will be betraid, his path will be one of suffering, and he will rise from the dead. Jesus speaks of personal discipleship and what it means to be in a close, intimate relationship with him. Then he shares with his friends the concepts of self-denial, suffering, and hardship, even stating, "Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for m sake will find it."

Don’t you think that these words force us to make a decision? Will we follow Jesus on his journey or will we turn away?Peter responds once again. "God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you."

Our Vision of Jesus

I think, every friend of Jesus would say: "No, this must not happen. You, as our friend, Savior and Redeemer, cannot endure suffering and death. This is not how we envision the Messiah." Peter’s concerns are understandable. But Jesus flat-out distances himself from such ideas. He emphasizes that being the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God, is not one of triumph, rather a mission of humility, love, service, suffering and death.

This probably does not fully conform to our human expectations:

The Son of God, sent to die at the hands of humans? 

Reflecting in our thoughts and desires as humans, Peter’s objection is one we can completely relate to.

A suffering Messiah, and a slain Son of God, does not conform to the expectations of Jesus' friends and followers. Is the message of Jesus Christ, is his discipleship, reserved only for a few daring martyrs, while the rest of us ordinary Christians live in a different reality?

Dear Friends

I think it is safe for us to say that as rational and responsible beings, we are able to think and act. God wishes to reveal Himself to us, and to establish a relationship with us through various avenues and channels. Ultimately, God longs to share everything with us, including our humanity.

The Incarnation, the celebration of Christmas, is heartwarming and beautiful. Yet accompanying Jesus through Holy Week, witnessing his suffering and death, is like being on an emotional rollercoaster. I believe that proclaiming Jesus as the Son of God is not some kind of drug to lull us into a state of sleep or confusion. On the contrary, Jesus' affirmation encourages us to believe that God takes humanity seriously. God trusts us to embrace life with Him, to live it through all its highs and lows. It demonstrates God's willingness to share everything with us, to touch, to heal, and uplift every part of our lives.

Since the time of Jesus crucifixion, the human family has become even more tightly connected; sharing in joy and sorrow. The destiny of all those baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity is intricately linked to the life and salvation of Jesus Christ. This is why the Church encompasses various vocations. There are martyrs and ordinary individuals alike. Some are considered to be martyrs, like the Prophet Jeremiah, who was driven by God's calling.

In our First Reading (Jeremiah 20:7-9), you heard how he said, "You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me." Or Saint Paul, who encourages both himself and others to shift from a human perspective on life in the world and be transformed by God's power. Then there's my grandmother, whose own generosity found a place in the hearts of many through her acts of service.

For me, these are the three key takeaways from today's Gospel:

Humanity possesses boundless openness to life in God's presence.

As a human family, we are simultaneously a gift to one another and we have a collective responsibility to each other.

God shares every aspect of life with us; through moments of joy, need, suffering, and even death. There is no need to be afraid.

Let us pray, that we are ready to follow Jesus on our own personal journey.

“Praise be Jesus Christ - Now and forever, amen!”

“Laudetur Jesus Christus - In saecula saeculorum”