In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks a question of his disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” As Pope Francis states in the Reflection for this week, each of us must ponder this same question: “Today, we hear Jesus’ question directed to each one of us: ‘And you, who do you say I am?’ To each one of us. And each one of us must give not a theoretical answer, but one that involves faith, that is, life, because faith is life! ‘For me you are …’ and then to confess Jesus.… It is a matter of understanding who Christ is for us: whether he is the center of our life, whether he is the goal of our commitment in the Church, of our commitment in society. Who is Jesus Christ for me? …. An answer that we should give every day.”
One important way to look at this question is to ask ourselves: Who is the Lord of my life? Whose will reigns in my heart? Do I exalt myself as the supreme authority in my life, acting and thinking according to whatever I decide? Or do I sincerely seek to know and follow the will of God? Is Jesus the Lord of my life or am I?
The people at the time of Jesus had various opinions about who he might be, as the disciples report in the Gospel: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. The people were not sure, nor were they terribly concerned about finding out. As long as they could view Jesus as simply another prophet or teacher, they could be free to go on with their lives as they were before. But Peter answers the question about Jesus’ identity in a whole different way: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” If that is the truth, then there is no going back to living as we did before we met Jesus. If he is the Son of God, the Savior, then he is our Lord. He is the One who shows us the way to life with the Father.
The second reading speaks about “the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God.” His judgments are “inscrutable,” and his ways are “unsearchable.” We are asked, “Who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor?” We are told that “from him and through him and for him are all things.” If Jesus is the Son of God, then all these things are true of him. His wisdom and power are infinitely beyond human understanding. If we proclaim that we believe this in faith, then we can ask ourselves whether we live as we proclaim. Why would we prefer to follow our own limited, confused knowledge rather than follow God’s way? Why would we seek the short-lived, paltry glory which this world offers rather than the eternal glory promised us by the Lord?
One thing which the readings this week will be warning us against is hypocrisy. While we all fall short of living the faith that we profess, let us not profess faith in Jesus with our lips while deliberately and consciously choosing to live as if he is not our Lord. Today’s Psalm proclaims God’s mercy and goodness to those who call upon him and give him heartfelt thanks. But a later verse affirms, “the lowly he sees, and the proud he knows from afar.” Although the Lord reigns on high in Heaven, he is nevertheless very close to us, and he knows whether our hearts are lowly or proud. Empty words of faith do not fool God. He knows the truth of our hearts.
Pride seems to have been the major flaw of “Shebna, master of the palace” in the first reading. In the verses just before the ones we read, he is chastised for exalting himself rather than humbly carrying out the duties of his office. For that, God tells him that he will be pulled down, and his place will be given to Eliakim. We can assume that Eliakim was a man of faith and integrity. For this, God promises to give him a place of authority, using words which sound similar to what Jesus says to Peter in the Gospel.
Let us resolve today to avoid the sin of Shebna, to reject exalting our own will and seeking our own glory above all. Rather, let us firmly and with full meaning repeat Peter’s words to Jesus: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus, you are my Lord, and I will strive to give you honor and glory in all that I do and with all that I am.
In all this, let us ask the help of our Mother Mary, following the advice of Pope Francis: “May Mary Most Holy, blessed because she believed, be our guide and model on the path of faith in Christ, and make us aware that trust in him gives full meaning to our charity and to all our existence.”
Who is Jesus Christ for me and how does he reign in my heart? Why would I prefer to follow my own limited knowledge rather than God’s way? How can I avoid the sin of Shebna, exalting my own will and seeking my own glory above all?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 19, no. 6. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.