In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus asks Peter, Who do you say that I am? And Peter testifies that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is the Messiah, the one who saves, redeems, and brings peace to the world. But what exactly that means for us in our concrete and lived realities changes over time. So we can keep answering that question that Jesus asks us: Who do you say that I am? Who is Jesus for you, right now? What does it mean to affirm him as the Messiah?
Once in assisting with a student retreat, the campus minister invited students to pray with this passage, and then also to ask Jesus the same question about myself: Who do you say that I am? And to imaginatively see what Jesus answers. Every year when this passage comes up, I pray with it in this way, and find that form of prayer fruitful.
In Jesus’ response is that when he gives Peter the keys to the kingdom, he displays something about who he is. Jesus shows that God is a God who shares power with us, who allows us to share in the redemption of the world. For Catholics such as myself, the passage affirms the foundation of the Church and the papacy, but what this shows about Jesus himself is even wider than that: God does not fix everything in the world on his own, but tells us that our actions in this world are important, that the work of bringing about God’s kingdom in this world is shared with human beings. When we practice corporal works of mercy, or stand up for justice, or forgive, we participate in that life giving, love giving, work of God’s
All Christians are called to partner with God in acting to help bring about God’s kingdom. We can pray over how each of us might answer the question, who do you say that I am? And how we answer that invitation to take up God’s project of restoration of peace and justice, in a world very much in need of it.