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Pastor's Column

“But You... Who Did You Say That I Am?”

Pastor’s Column

21st Sunday Ordinary Time

August 27, 2023

In Sunday’s gospel (Mt 16:13-20), Jesus leads his disciples to Caesarea Phillipi. Jesus has brought the disciples to a place where the crowds would be smaller, so that they can get away and get prepared for the passion and cross that are coming. Caesarea Phillipi is an interesting place indeed. Filled with pagan temples, it was within Israel but completely Roman and very pagan. Most pious Jews would not have had any reason to go there. But Jesus leads his disciples here for a very good reason.

Notes on paintings illustrating the life of Jesus of Nazareth by William Hole, the Matson Photo Service.

Just imagine for a moment the apostles gathered around a fire or in a home that evening. They have had a chance to get away for a bit and are conversing about all the recent events. In the midst of this commonplace moment among friends, Jesus slips in an innocent-sounding question: “So, tell me, who do people say that I am?”

Jesus, of course, already knew the answer to this question, didn’t he? So why did he ask it? To test the apostles. To teach them something. Suddenly, it is the moment of truth, that moment which everything in their lives was leading up to: Jesus says, ”And you, who do you say that I am?”

These moments come often in our lives, and they are often unanticipated. Such moments come, for example, when we learn something about others and are tempted to spread it -- and don’t; when we can cheat and get away with it, and don’t. What we say and do says a lot about who Jesus is in our lives and who we think he is. When I go on the internet or watch TV or a movie, who does this choice say Jesus is in my life? Will I work hard and try to be honest at school or work? Decisions like these, those we make every day, will tell us, in one situation after another, whether Jesus is the Lord of my life or not.

We all have areas of our lives – called sins – where Jesus is not yet the Lord of our lives, where something else is more important. The real question is, Do I know my weaknesses. Do I know where I need to be converted? These are the areas here Jesus wishes to be the Lord, and where he will lead us on a regular basis so that we might learn to choose him there.

These daily moments, and we all have them, are where Jesus turns to us and says …and you … who do YOU say that I am? On the last day of our lives, the Lord will show us all we said and did, all that we confessed and have been forgiven … and he will look at us on that day, and he will say “and YOU … who did you say…. that I am?”

Father Gary


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