Who do you say I am?”
24 Sunday in Ordinary Time
In the musical Jesus Christ Superstar Mary Magdalene referring to Jesus sang. “He’s a man, he’s just a man,” It is one answer to the question: Who is Jesus Christ?
But then she added:
“I’ve been changed, yes really changed
In these past few days
When I’ve seen myself
I seem like someone else
He’s a man
He’s just a man”
She has met Jesus and she has been mysteriously changed by him. AND SHE SENSES that there was much more to him than meets the eye, but she can’t put her finger on it. So In her bewilderment, she simple says, He’s a man. He’s just a man. But on HER lips that sounds more sounds more like a question than a statement. After all she has been changed by her encounter with him. Something that has not happened in her encounters with anybody else. For the moment her sense of bafflement remains but her heart longs for a deeper answer.
She is not really happy with the answers that other people are giving. Now that she has been changed through her encounters with Jesus, it is an answer she must give for herself. As her relationship with him grows the answer will, in time, come from her heart.
Mary had moved a step nearer to first-hand religion. It is all too easy to get focused on second-hand religion and just repeat what other people believe; rather than to ponder deeply our own answer to the question – Who do I say Jesus is? What is it that I really believe about Jesus?
Jesus isn’t really interested in the first question in today’s gospel.
“Who do people say that I am?” This question is easily answered, one has only to be a reporter; and report what others have said.
The Second one is the real question was “Who do you say I am?” This is a searching question; and only a disciple can come anywhere close to answering it.
For once in the Gospels, Peter got it right when he blurted out: “You are the Messiah” but rather strangely Jesus, immediately, tells Peter not to tell anyone about him. Yes, Peter had given the right answer, but he did not yet fully understand what he had said.
As we see a few verses later Peter’s understanding of the Messiah had to do with earthly power and privilege whereas for Jesus it meant the paradox of suffering and dying.
Jesus comes to each of us and puts the penetratingly personal question, “BUT WHO DO YOU, FOR YOURSELF, SAY THAT I AM?” Right now, this day.
Maybe the question WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM? can only really be answered by the heart because it is a question of relationship; a question of heart-knowing. When we know that answer to that question in our hearts we too, like Mary will, in our own way become messengers and missionaries for the risen Christ.
by Fr John Horan SDB Salesian Community, Limerick, Ireland