August 23, 2020 | 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)
Reading 1: Isaiah 22:19-23
Reading 2: Romans 11:33-36
Gospel: Matthew 16:13-20
If I asked you who you thought Jesus was, I'm sure you'd be able to come up with a variety of responses. "He was the one born in a manger." "He was the one who fasted forty days in the desert." "He was the one who fed 5,000 people with only five loaves and two fish." "He was the one who died on the cross for us." "He was the one who rose from the dead after three days."
These are all descriptors of who Jesus is. But in this week's Gospel, Jesus asks His disciples the same question. And they have their own descriptors: "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets" (Matthew 16:14).
But Jesus wants more from the disciples. "But who do you say I am?" (Matthew 16:15).
Every single day, every moment of our day, Jesus asks us the same question. And the question is not so much what we know about Jesus or what miracles we're able to rattle off, but who is He really to you?
Simon Peter says with conviction, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16). So it begs the question: do we have that same conviction? Do we really know who Jesus is, and further, do we believe that He actually is the Christ?
I think that it can be easy to believe this and say this on the good days, when things are going well. It was the same for Peter: When the going was good, he had no problem proclaiming the true name of Jesus. But when things started to go a little south (i.e., during Jesus' Passion), he walked back his conviction. He couldn't own the statement that he once said with such heart and conviction.
In my own life, when things are going the way I expect or hope them to, I can get complacent. I find myself lifting my hands in prayer, thanking Jesus for His goodness. But when I've hit a rough patch, or things aren't going to plan? I shut down. I back away from the initial praise, and my joy is replaced with sorrow and complaining.
Much like God's love for us, Jesus' identity does not waver. It does not depend on good or bad days. Jesus' identity—the Christ and the Messiah—lasts forever. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. For all eternity, He will always love us and always be the Son of the living God.
God knows that we will falter and fail. As it says in the second reading, "For who has known the mind of the Lord... or who has given the Lord anything that He may be repaid?" (Romans11:34-35). He already knows what will cause us to stumble before it even happens to us. And yet, God is patient. He continually asks us, "Who do you say that I am?"
In every triumph and in every trial, I hope that we can say with confidence that He is our Lord and Saviour. That He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the reason for our entire existence. I hope that we say this on our own accord—not because someone told us to, or because of other people's stories. Yes, testimony is important and it helps us to bask in the glory of God's goodness. But ultimately, our faith is our own. And God wants to know what you think.
Verse for reflection: He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" — Matthew 16:15
Questions for reflection: Have I allowed my heart to be quiet enough to see who Jesus really is? What do I call Jesus? Who do I say that He is?
Prayer: Lord, I hear you calling out to me. I hear you asking me who I think you are. Help me to speak your name with confidence and conviction—there is power in your name. Help me to behold you and witness you to other people.