Who do You Say that I Am?

09-12-2021Weekly ReflectionFr. Manasseh Iorchir, VC

Towards the end of His mission on earth, Jesus saw the need to begin speaking “openly” or “plainly” to His disciples and no longer with the use of parables and metaphors. To be able to do this well, the Divine Redeemer decided to assess His apostle’s’ understanding of his person and mission. He asked them two questions. The first was: “Who do people say I am?” The apostles gave various answers. Some told Him that people thought He was John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets. Having gathered public opinion about Himself, Jesus asked the apostles, “But who do you say I am?” This time, only Simon Peter replied. Mark reports in today’s gospel that Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”

In the first question, Jesus wanted to know from their synthesis of public opinion what the apostles knew about Him. In the second question, the Messiah wanted to know if the apostles themselves knew Him. There is a very big and clear difference between “knowing about Jesus” and “knowing Jesus.” Anyone can know about Jesus, even an atheist. You can know about Him by reading about Him, listening to someone talk about Him, you can even study about Him in school and earn laurels for excelling in your study about Him. All these, unfortunately, do not amount to knowing Jesus Christ. Thus, you can have a professor of Theology and even an expert in Christology who does not truly know Jesus.

Fortunately, knowing Jesus is open to every human being; knowing Jesus means encountering Him and profoundly experiencing Him in such a manner that our experience of Him radically transforms us. Only a disciple can truly know Jesus and only by knowing Him can we truly be His disciples. Once a person knows Jesus, they begin to act kindly, speak charitably, exercise purity of thought like Him, and there is no willful omission of good deeds in their life. People who know Jesus freely deny themselves ungodly pleasures and earthly indulgences, they willingly “pick up their difficult crosses” of challenges and persecution for the sake of the kingdom, and diligently “follow” Jesus’ example of love and compassion.

This is precisely St. James’ Theological opinion in the second reading today. For James, there is no profit in the mere verbal profession of faith in Christ Jesus if such profession of faith is devoid of good works. Compassion and acts of charity are the best expressions of faith. James comes to the radical, yet very logical conclusion that faith without works is dead. We cannot claim knowledge of, and belief in, Christ if our profession of faith is not readily visible in the kind of life we live and things we do.

We pray for that transforming experience of the person and mission of Christ that will culminate in the perfect knowledge of Jesus and His mission.

Please be kind and may God bless you.

Fr. Manasseh