21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
When we want to get to know someone better or more deeply, when we want to enter into a special friendship with someone, we do something to encounter that person on a more personal level. For example, we would schedule specific times and specific places to be with that person. It is not enough to read something about the person. It is not enough to get to know that person from another. It is not enough to spend a few minutes with that person once –not even twice or thrice. Rather, we must spend time, both quantitatively and qualitatively, to be with that person – talking and listening.
The same procedure holds if we want to get to know Jesus better. We must arrange to encounter him, to meet with him, and talk with him on a regular basis. We schedule specific times and specific places to be with him. We call these encounters or meetings daily prayer (pananalangin). Daily prayer is simply taking time out of our schedule to regularly meet with Jesus and to get to know him better.
It is only by spending enough time in prayer that we can give a personal answer to a personal question Jesus is asking us. Jesus’ question in today’s gospel passage to his disciples is also addressed to us: “Who do you say that I am?” It is one of those classic eternal questions all of us have to confront. Indeed, it is a personal question that demands a personal response from each of us. Right here, right now, Jesus is asking you: “Who do YOU say that I am?” “Who am I to you? What do you know of me?” The Lord does not want an answer or answers based only on what you have read, heard or learned from catechesis, theology, books, sermons, talks or recollections. He wants an answer that comes from your heart –an answer based on your personal encounter with him. He wants an answer that is the fruit of our prayer.
“Who do you say that I am?” can be paraphrased as, “Who is Jesus to me?” This is a great question, the most important one, because this really is the defining question of life. “Who Jesus is to me” determines how I live my life. It is essentially connected to my own identity –how I view myself in relation to Jesus. “Who Jesus is to me” tells me who I am, who I am meant to be and to become.
“Who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter correctly grasps the heart of the matter: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Peter sees that Jesus is not a figure about whom we can be neutral or indifferent. Why? Because if Jesus is who he says he is, then, we must give our whole selves to him. If we profess Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the living God, then, we must live our lives according to this profession. Jesus as our Lord and Messiah must affect and influence all our thoughts and ideas, all our choices and decisions, all our attitudes and behaviors, all our words and deeds, all our values and priorities, all our works and activities.
If we really consider Jesus as “the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” we cannot put him inside the cabinet and just take him out when it is convenient for us to do so. We cannot confine him in just one area of our life or restrict his influence in just one aspect of it. We must allow him to be the Lord of our whole life. We must allow him to dominate every part, every aspect, every dimension of our lives –not just our religious and spiritual life, but also our social, political, economic and professional life. We cannot allocate just one hour a week for him and spend the rest of our time to our projects and interests. We must devote every moment of our life to him. We must strive to make every minute as our gift to God. We cannot give him just half of our heart, mind and strength and the other half to our other concerns and preoccupations. We must give our whole selves to him. Our whole heart, mind and strength must be focused and devoted to sharing in the life and mission of Christ.
Jesus invites all of us to come to know him in prayer. The Lord has already worked wonders in our lives, yet, in his generosity, he wants to give us much more. In prayer, we realize the great things Jesus has done for us; therefore, our hearts are filled with gratitude and joy. In prayer, we become aware of Jesus’ abiding presence; therefore, we are consoled that we are not alone. In prayer, we come to know Jesus as the Master of our life; therefore, we are assured that he has a plan for each of us. In prayer, we allow Jesus to empower and inspire us; therefore, we become effective ministers of the Gospel. Let the Jesus we come to know in intimate prayer lead us to glorifying God by our life.