21st SUNDAY: THE CONFESSION OF PETER. MT 16:13- 20
Recently, I listened to the story of a husband, who had visited his wife every day for the last several years in a nursing home. His wife had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease; with each day, she got weaker. Every day, he fed her lunch. He sat with her and held her hand and showed her the pictures of their children, telling her the latest family news and stories. She forgot as soon as she heard them.
He always patiently reminded her who he was, and explained that they had been married for the past 52 years, have two daughters, two sons, and four beautiful grandchildren. Before leaving, he kisses her and tells her how much he loves her. However, she never remembers anything he has told her. One day, one of his friends asked him, “Why do you keep going there, when she doesn’t even know who you are?” His answer was so touching: “Because I know who I am.”
This husband’s faithfulness is the perfect and complete answer to the question Jesus asked Peter and the other disciples in today’s Gospel. In realizing exactly who Jesus is, we have to understand first who we are and what our lives are about! In the Gospel, we see Jesus inviting His disciples to look within and see the living image of God within. Jesus asked them: “Who do people say that I am?” This question is a very easy one that we can speak about our knowledge of Jesus. We learn this from our parents, teachers, the church teachings, and other sources. The second question was very challenging: “Who do you say that I am?” The answer is based on our own personal relationships and experiences with Jesus. Peter said, “You are the Christ.” Peter spoke from his heart, and it was very natural and spontaneous; it came from his personal experiences with Jesus. Like each of us, Peter had his own moments of confusion, fear, doubt, and lack of faith; but all these failures brought him closer to Jesus and made Jesus love him more.
Today, Jesus is asking the same question: “Who do you say that I am?” What would be our answer? It is very easy to talk about others, but when it comes to talking or sharing about ourselves, it is very hard. If we want to give real answers to Jesus’ question, we need deep relationships with Jesus and that is only possible by moving out of our comfort zones into places where we take on the crosses of self-denial and self-sacrifice, places where we are unafraid to show who we really are, places where we are willing to show our weaknesses. The most important thing is we need personal prayer in our lives that will help us to know who Jesus is for me.
Once a reporter asked Mother Teresa, “Mother, what place do you give to Jesus in your life?” Mother immediately replied, “The meaning of my whole life is in the Person of Jesus. I give Jesus all the place, which means, I am totally belonging to Jesus and Jesus is everything in my life.”
Let us try to be like Peter and Mother Teresa, to have knowledge of Jesus, to have personal experiences with Jesus, and to be ready to carry our own crosses in our lives. To carry our own crosses means accepting our own daily lives and challenges, and accepting God’s will in our daily lives. We have to carry our own crosses without blaming or complaining. Today, let us take a few moments to pray for someone, who carries a bigger cross than we do!