Here I want to focus on the nature of Jesus’ question itself. Generally speaking, the sole purpose of posing a question is to get an answer, which will either confirm or refute what we already know to be true, or to simply provide us with new information. Good questions almost always provoke good answers, and good answers are those that propel us to act. The questions that we ask are either about us or about the other person(s); that is, our central motive for asking anyone a question is either for our benefit or for theirs.
We see here that Jesus’ question was presented to get an answer, which would provide the disciples with new information. During this information gathering phase the responses that were elicited from His question, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” were (1) John the Baptist, (2) Elijah, and (3) One of the ancient prophets now arisen. What Jesus did next was create a dichotomy between those who have spent time with Him and those who have not; He asked, “But who do you say that I am?” To which Peter, the first of the Apostles, said, “The Christ of God.”
One of the things that I love about asking and hearing good questions is that the good answers they provoke produce information that you can actually do something with. It’s what I call ‘Transformative Information’, because it changes how you look at things. Whereas before you were thinking like this, but now you are thinking in a new, or more enlightened way. One of the most transformative and empowering things that the disciples were able to do with this new information, that Jesus is the Messiah of God, was to accept Him precisely for who He is.
Therefore, the key reason why Jesus then went on to rebuke them, “and directed them not to tell this to anyone,” was because the crowd only knew Him as one of the prophets. They were not ready to accept Him for who He is, and because they were not able to accept Him rightly, they could not love Him rightly, and when humans do not love others rightly, all we end up doing is hurting them. These people eventually would go onto harming Jesus because they could not accept Him as Messiah and God, but now was not yet the time.
There is a peculiar thing that happens on my Facebook wall from time to time. If point out something ridiculous that a politician (especially a Democratic one) does, everyone likes my status and posts validating and affirming comments, and tell me what a good job I’m doing. But what happens when when I post something about a ridiculous comment that a Catholic Bishop said? Oh, they say I should be like Saint Margaret Mary or Catherine of Sienna or one of the ancient saints. They say I should just be quiet and say nice things about the clergy . . .
When people cannot accept you for who you are (meaning, who God has called you to be) they can only cause you harm, because they cannot love you rightly. I also believe that there is a degree is discomfort there as well. What I mean by that is when people do not love you rightly it means that they are not free, and because they are not free they are threatened by you who are free, and their response to this interior feeling of theirs is to try to shackle you and tie you down to something that they can accept. It has historically been the case that slaves keep company with slaves and free people keep company with free people. But never let a slave make you a slave, just so that they can have a friend.
Jesus said, “I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends,* because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father” (Jn. 15:15).
One of the calls of today’s Gospel is to identify those people in your life who know you are. These should be the people who you call your friends. Your friends are people who know who you are In Christ. Because they know who you are In Christ they know your value, and won’t attempt to diminish it or try to enslave you.
Another call of today’s Gospel is the build friendship by telling people who you are In Christ. Whenever the Spirit leads you, share your testimony about what God has done, is doing, and will do for you. If you do this you’ll be surprised about how many new friends you will make.
As you reflect upon the readings at Mass today, here are some questions for you to consider:
- How consistent are you at identifying Jesus in others? What are some of the things you tend to identify first? Size? Beauty? Clothes? Hair?
- How do you tend to identify yourself? By your career? Your favorite sports team? Your vocation? How would other people identify you if they were asked? Would the first thing they say is that you are a Catholic?
- Reflect on a time or times when you corrected someone who identified Jesus wrong. Or that time you heard someone identify Him wrong, but you didn’t correct them.
O God, you are my God whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.
Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
to see your power and your glory,
For your kindness is a greater good than life;
my lips shall glorify you.
Thus will I bless you while I live;
lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied,
and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.
You are my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.
My soul clings fast to you;
your right hand upholds me.
Scripture texts in this blog are taken from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Revised Psalms © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.