Peter’s profession of faith“You are the Christ of
God”has often been examined in terms of his own vocation:
his calling, his primacy among the apostles, his later failure,
and his loving encounter with the Risen Lord.
Considerable attention has also been given to the texts following
this event: the first prophecy of Jesus’ Passion and the costs
of our own discipleship in following him.
What is less often investigated is the reality presumed by Jesus’
question. His words reveal something startling about God. They
also reveal something wondrous about us.
“But you. Who do you say that I am?”
This, much more than the opinions of the crowd, is Jesus’ central
interest. He is pre-eminently concerned with the judgment and
affirmation of the individual person standing before him. Thus,
if we take Peter to be a representation of each of us believers,
it becomes clear that what Christ wants of us is our own unique
affirmation. No one else can offer our act of assent. All of
us have our own hearts to give freely away. This is what God
seems to cherish most about us.
When Christ asks each of us, “Who do you say that
I am?” he exposes the extraordinary character of our being.
We persons are able to know our own relationship to the world,
to possess it, and then to confer it upon others.
We have an awesome capacity to take hold of our own lives and
give them away. In this matter, no one can ever take our place.
Only we can utter our fundamental word. Only we can speak for
ourselves. Thus, in responding to his question, we discover
why each of us is irreplaceable and incomparable. At the same
time, we discover our unity as persons: all of us humans are
equal in the spiritual grant of freedom. The self-gift of a
poor, old, broken-down priest is as valuable to God as the
of any nation’s leader.
“Who do you say I am?” In our response, being
Jew, Greek, black or white, slave or free, old or young, male
or female is not significant. What is significant is our freedom,
that gift which images most fully our godliness.
We imagine that our foremost task in life is somehow to make
a difference, to have done something that no one else could
possibly have done, to be irreplaceable. But the only difference
we really make in this world, the only thing we can do that
no one else can do, is take ownership of our lives and give
This we do in our commitments, in our promises. “I give
myself to you in faith.” “I believe in you.”
“I entrust myself to you in hope.” “I hope in
you.” “I say ‘yes’ to you in love.” “This
is who I say you are.”
Each of these unforced commitments is strangely an emptying
out, a giving away, a bestowal we make. But in them we discover,
too, who and what we are. We find ourselves only when we learn
to love, to believe, to hope. We achieve our being only when
we no longer cling to it.
“Whosoever of you would cling to your life, will lose it;
whosoever lets go of it for my sake will save it.”
John Kavanaugh, SJ
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