Dear brothers and sisters:
Mark, the evangelist, writes that while Jesus and his disciples were visiting towns throughout the region of Caesarea, Jesus asked the disciples: “‘who do people say that I am?’ They said in reply, ‘John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.’ And he asked them, ‘but who do you say that I am?’ Peter said to him in reply, ‘you are the Christ.’” (Mark 8:27-28).
Regarding Jesus’ identity, among the Jews, there was confusion. Jesus was a mysterious and difficult person to understand or to equate with one of the established groups such as the Sadducees, Pharisees or Essenes. People recognized that he was somehow extraordinary in his teachings and deeds. Jesus needed his disciples to have a clear understanding about him, and so He asked them, “who do you say that I am?” Peter, the oldest among the disciples, took the lead and spoke on behalf of the group; “you are the Christ.” From that very moment on, in the gospel of Mark, Jesus’ identity is revealed.
Notice also the fact that Jesus never declares himself as the Christ. Instead, his words and deeds will hopefully guide the crowd to recognize him as the Son of God. The first ones to realize Jesus’ identity were his disciples. This question, brothers and sisters, has to be answered by us as well. Who is Christ for us?
It is not only the Jews who were confused about Jesus’ true identity. Today, in fact, we may have as many answers to that question as we have people to ask. We can perceive that today people have a vague or wrong idea about Christ. For some, Christ is a distant God whom they do not see in their lives. For others, Christ is the God to whom they will go to in time of danger or fear but not on a daily basis with a permanent commitment. Some people establish an individual/personal relationship with God, thinking that there is no need to be affiliated with the Church. While it is true that we can pray individually to God, we cannot deny the fact that Jesus’ first act in his ministry was to establish the community of disciples. Today, we even encounter people who think that God is a human creation in order to justify a set of values and norms.
I pray and hope that we all can say with Peter, You are the Christ, You are the Messiah.
May God bless you all.
Rev. Johnson Lopez
Father Lopez is Pastor of Saint Patrick Catholic Church in Rochelle, IL.