August 21, 2011
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
Matthew 16:13-20 “But who do you say that I am?”
I love History subjects when I was in high school. I enjoyed memorizing famous names, important dates and exotic places. But I struggled a lot when reflection paper would be required with topics such as “If Rizal is alive today, what will he say to the Filipino youth?” To answer it well, we need to know Rizal beyond facts and figures. We need to know his values, aspirations and sentiments in order to know him well.
In our gospel today, Jesus suddenly gave a surprise quiz to the disciples to test their knowledge about him. Much to the disciples’ surprise, Jesus posted two questions to them. The first question was a general knowledge inquiry, but the second was a heart to heart inquiry – a check of personal knowledge.
The first question was a curriculum vitae material: “Who do people say I am?” And they answered, “Some say you are John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Easy! It was just a re-echoing of what others have said about Jesus.
But the second question was a hard one. Only those who were intimately close to Jesus could answer this: “Who do you say I am?” Everybody was caught in surprise. It was a re-echoing of what’s inside their hearts.” Surprisingly, Simon answered it correctly, “You are Christ, the Son of the living God.” I could imagine a smiling Jesus when Peter answered his second question correctly.
In our experience, students who are intellectually motivated spend a great deal of time in reading and researching. They have this unquenchable thirst for deeper knowledge. In the end, they become what they read and contemplated.
On the other hand, Peter was not only intellectually motivated to know Jesus. He was spiritually moved by Jesus. He was captivated by Jesus’ charism, passion and ministry. He wanted to know what keeps Jesus so passionate in everything. Thus, Peter decided to stay close with Jesus and learn more of Him. In the end, he decided to follow the footstep of Jesus. He became what he contemplated. It was Peter’s intimacy with Jesus that led him to say, “You are the son of the living God.” It was also his intimacy with Jesus that led him to say, “If it is you Lord, allow me to walk on water.”
But far more revealing in the story was the reply of Jesus, “Peter, I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.” I suddenly realized that the more we know Jesus, the more we know ourselves and our hidden gifts and potentials. Thus, we are challenged to continually fix our eyes on Jesus in our prayer if we want to know ourselves. Our identity is in Jesus.
In our society, educated people benefits a lot. They always win in Quiz Bees, get freebies from the Cebu Pacific in-flight contest, and frequently consulted for bright ideas. Intelligent people are sources of right information and sound opinion of anything under the sun.
On the other hand, prayerful and spiritual people are sources of inspiration and strength. They are emotionally stable, balanced and happy. Such peaceful and cheerful disposition is the fruit of their deeply rooted prayer life and intimacy with God. Spiritual giants like Mary, St.Ignatius of Loyola and St.Francis of Assisi were people of prayer. Like Peter, because of their intimacy with Jesus, they found God and found themselves in the process.
But what about us? How is our intimacy with God? If Jesus will give us a surprise quiz today and ask us the same question, “Who do you say that I am?” What is your answer? Evaluate yourself.
Is your knowledge of Jesus comes from:
Your personal experience of Him in prayer? ----------- 40 % _______
Your personal experience Him in your daily life? ----- 40 % _______
Your Bible Study and Catechism? -=-------------------- 10 % _______
Other people’s experience of Jesus? --------------------- 10% _______
What is your score?
Your score will tell you how deeply you know Jesus.
Knowing Jesus through Bible study and Catechism will give us a trophy in a Bible Quiz Bee; but knowing Jesus intimately through our prayer will give us heaven in our hand.
- Fr. Willy M. Samson,SJ
Sacred Heart Chapel
Ateneo de Zamboanga University