Who do people say that the Son of Man is? Who do you say that I am?
These are the two questions Jesus posed in today’s (August 27) Gospel. The first is more like a survey question. In today’s survey-driven world, the question can be likened to what Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations say about me.
But the next question is personal: Who do you say that I am? Peter gave the right answer, with God’s help: You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
The answer remains correct but each of us is asked the same question today and Christ is waiting for our response. Who is Christ for us? Our Christian life is actually a lived and continuing answer to the question in the sense that the options we take must find justification in the life of Jesus.
Maybe we can initially explain this point by noting that another word for Christian baptism is Christening. The word is instructive on what this sacrament is all about. In baptism, we are given a new life to be radically allied to Christ. We are to become like Christ. Thus, how we live our Christian life is actually a response to the question, “Who do you say that I am?”
The answers differ depending on where a person is specifically situated.
A cloistered monk or nun can see in Jesus someone who often escaped from the crowd and even from his disciples to commune with God.
A medical doctor can see in Jesus a healer who dealt with the whole person.
A teacher can see in Jesus a fellow teacher who patiently taught by his words and deeds about the reign of God and never felt discouraged when his disciples (which etymologically means learners) failed to understand.
An engineer can answer that Jesus is a constructor of the bridge between our earthly existence and the reign of God.
A lawyer can see Jesus as someone who believed that the law must serve the interest of the human person.
An activist can see in Jesus the boldness in speaking truth to power and in questioning the hidden premises that justified the exclusion of those considered impure.
Even if most probably Jesus did not receive a formal education, students can see in him the conscientiousness in studying the Scriptures and relating these to the issues of his times.
We priests can see Jesus as someone whose life is a self-offering. We can ask to what extent Jesus’ criticisms against the Temple establishment are still true today.
Since we are all sinners, we can all see Jesus as someone who welcomed tax collectors and sex workers, and who taught that God’s love is always greater than our sins.
Thus, to the question “Who do you say that I am?” our life is an answer and the answers are different. But amidst these different answers, there is also a common answer: It is the spirit of Jesus who dwells in our hearts and who enables us to become the Christ-like person that we Christians are called to be.
Fr. Ramon D. Echica is the Dean of Studies of the San Carlos Major Seminary. He obtained his doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Catholic University of Leuven (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) in 1998.