Twenty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year A


Anthony P. Burrascano, O.S.A.
Villanova University
Villanova, Pennsylvania

Is 22: 19-23
Ps 138: 1-2,2-3,6,8
Rom 11: 33-36
Mt 16: 13-20

Jesus was a teacher who taught many types of people in many different ways. Today he teaches by asking questions. He is with his disciples and asks them the question, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They are quick to respond that different people say different things; some say it is John the Baptist, some Elijah or one of the prophets. There is no one definitive answer.

This is not the end of Jesus’ questions. He now says to the disciples, “But who do you say I am?” This may sound like a strange question. Doesn’t Jesus know who he is? Jesus is really not having an identity crisis. He wants to see how the disciples have come to understand his message and mission.

These disciples have walked with Jesus, they have heard his teaching, they have seen his miracles, they have lived with him and come to know him. But do they truly “know” him. Jesus is challenging the disciples to reflect on all that they have seen of him, and now declare their understanding of him.

Peter is asked this question and probably stops and reflects for a moment and then he says “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” This comes from the depth of Peter. He has had that little light go on in his head, and he has come to understand and believe who Jesus Christ is. He has spent all that time with Jesus and now is beginning, and maybe just beginning, to understand all that has occurred, and is coming to understand and believe in Jesus. Peter declares his belief in Jesus. Jesus is pleased with his response and tells Peter that he is blessed, and for that he shall be entrusted with greater things to come to the Church. Peter answered the question well.

That same question asked of the disciples is asked of every Christian: “But who do you say I am”? Of course, like Peter we would say, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” We know who Jesus is. We learned about him, we were taught in school or Religious Education or by our families. Of course we “know” Jesus is God, the Son of God, the Savior of the world.

It is not enough to parrot, repeat what we have been taught or learned in growing up. We must come to our own belief and understanding of Christ in our life. When we proclaim, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” like Peter this response must come from our depth, our hearts, the core of our being.

But even that is not enough. Words are not enough. We reflect how we see Jesus not just in our words, but by our actions, how we live our life, how treat others, self, God and our world. Our belief in Jesus is reflected in how we live our lives.

“But who do you say I am?” A question Jesus asks us constantly. We cannot answer just in words. Who we see Jesus as being in our lives is reflected in how we live that gift of life in service to others.