Who do you say that I am? It is certainly the most fundamental question of our faith but is also the most fundamental question of our existence and our own lives. Who do you say that Jesus is? How you answer that question, will determine not only how you practice your faith, but how you live your life.
The fact that we are all gathered here at church, leads me to believe that most of us are at a point where with St. Peter we can profess “yes, Lord you are the Son of God” and that is a powerful statement. A statement that should not only be uttered in our words, but in how we live our life.
You see one of the challenges for Christians, is that in our head we say “yes you are the Son of God,” but so often it never leaves our head and makes its way to our heart; to the core of who we are as human people. Did you notice how Jesus began the conversation? He asked His disciples, “who do people say that I am?” What is the theory, what do all the great thinkers have to say about who I might be? But then Jesus takes it from the theory and He makes it personal by moving beyond what everyone else thinks and asking them essentially who they know Him to be.
What about us? Are we at a point where we can move that knowledge of Jesus as the Son of God, the long-awaited Messiah, from the head down to the core of our being, to our very heart? Because if we do, the way we live our life would never be the same. It is why St. Paul warns us in today’s 2nd reading that faith without works is dead. It makes utterly no sense to say deep down in my soul I know that Jesus is the Son of God, but I’ve got no desire to follow Him. Deep down I know that Jesus is who He says He is the long-awaited Messiah, but I don’t really need Him in my life. It makes utterly no sense to know Jesus in our hearts but then to do nothing with that knowledge. You know, even for people who begin to have this experience of Jesus and begin to live it out; day in and day out we have to answer this fundamental question; “who do you say that I am?”
Did you notice the 3rd part of the Gospel? After Peter has professed that Jesus is the Son of God, and Jesus tells Him how He will have to suffer and die. Peter pulls Jesus aside; the same Peter who just said I know you are God; tells Him He should have to do any of the suffering and dying. Peter who is able to say that Jesus is the Son of God, doesn’t want Jesus on His terms, he wants Jesus on Peter’s terms. How many times in our lives are we like that? Yes, know you are the Son of God, I have that faith, but I don’t really care about the commandments you gave me. Yes Lord, I know that you are the Son of God, but I don’t really need you. I’ll keep you in the passenger seat in case something goes wrong, but until then I am going to be in control. How many times in our lives, do we want Jesus but on our own terms? You notice Jesus’ response to Peter” “Get behind me Satan, for you are not thinking as God thinks.”
Who do you say that Jesus is? Because if He is the Son of God, it makes no sense to try to have Him on our terms. If we really believe that Jesus is the Son of God, then when He calls us to pick up our cross and follow Him, we don’t ask why; we just do it. The why is simple, because I know that He is the son of God, I know that He is the one who came into the world to save me and that is enough. So who do you say that He is?
You see my friends “one aspect of becoming a Christian is having to leave behind what everyone else thinks and wants, the prevailing standard, in order to enter the light of the truth of our being and aided by that light to find the right path.” How do you answer the question? If Jesus asked you right now “who do you say that I am” would you give Him the answer from your head “yes, I know you are the Son of God,” or has it gotten to a point where it has reached the heart and we can actually say through the way we live our life “I know you are the Son of God and I don’t want you on my terms, I need you on your terms?” Can we say “I don’t want to think like a human anymore, I want the gift of your wisdom and of your knowledge?
My friends, as we ask ourselves the question, who do we say that Jesus is, it is very easy for us just to give a response with our words, but perhaps the real challenge is to step back for a few days and ask ourselves how we answer that question, with the way that we live our life. It is the most fundamental question of our faith and the most fundamental question that will change the way that we approach and live in this world. Who do you say that Jesus is? The better question, how does the way that you live your life express who you say that Jesus really is?
 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Jesus of Nazareth Part II. San Francisco: Ignatius Press,2011. Pg 67.