Today’s gospel gives us the ground of our Christian faith– the profession of faith in Jesus as the Christ, the messiah, the anointed one of God, that Peter has confessed in Jesus. Peter has come to believe in Jesus as the Christ, not just one of the prophets, or Elijah, or John the Baptist, as the others would say of him. Peter has come to recognize Jesus as the one sent by God to be saviour of all. But this realization didn’t come to Peter out of the blue. Peter and the other disciples of Jesus came to see and believe in him because of something more fundamental that had happened in them. They not only met Jesus, but they have encountered him. This encounter happened not because they were driven to Jesus but because they were drawn by him individually and personally.
This is the beauty of our God when he calls us to follow him. He addresses us personally: ‘And You! Who do you say I am?’ And he also freely calls us, thus we are also to respond in freedom. When Jesus calls and we respond in freedom, this is encounter, and this encounter calls for a personal relationship. Because it is only in and through personal relationship with the Lord Jesus that we can profess freely, confidently and even proudly that Jesus is our Lord and Saviour.
This encounter therefore calls us for two things as we can deduce from our gospel today. First to celebrate this encounter by committing ourselves to follow Jesus everyday. Following him means ‘to renounce ourselves, take up our cross and follow him.’ Following him means devotion to the truth- that is to stand up for the truth that there is God, and that he is sending us the Messiah, and that we who are here today are witnesses to this wonderful truth of our faith. Following him means to be single-minded as Jesus was, towards the fulfilment of his mission from the Father- that is to go to Jerusalem, to be captured by the authorities and even to die on the cross. This single-mindedness towards our mission in life as Christians is always a challenging one, because this can mean we can disappoint others, even our own friends. Jesus himself was a victim of this. When he said to his closest friends what is going to happen to him, Peter was disappointed and thus he was trying to block his way to Jerusalem. Peter’s reaction however is typical of any human relationship. We don’t want something bad happens to our friends, we don’t want to lose our friends. But we have to know and understand God calls each one of us personally and in a more unique way. This then leads us to the second way to celebrate this personal encounter with Jesus and that is to be Christlike in the world today.
To be Christlike in the world today means to be reflection of Christ to others, to be bearers of the light that Christ has shared with us in our baptism, to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. To be Christlike today is to harmonise our faith with good works as St James urges us in our Second Reading today. To be Christlike is to be humble and meek as the suffering servant that the Prophet Isaiah tells us today in our Second Reading. St Teresa of Avila captured it quite well how to be Christlike in her poem that she wrote: Christ Has No Body. This mystic said: Christ has no body but yours, No hands, no feet on earth but yours, Yours are the eyes with which he looks Compassion on this world, Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good, Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, Yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now but yours, No hands, no feet on earth but yours, Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
It is a big call. But we are drawn to follow Jesus not driven. So we are free. He may not make the mountains in our path smaller but he can always make the climb easier. He may not take our load away, but he can always make our burden light. He may be showing us the ultimate way of discipleship which is to embrace the cross and even die, but he also shows us that there is glory, resurrection, and eternal happiness behind it all.
So as we continue our Eucharistic celebration today, let thank Jesus for this wonderful encounter with him. Let us also pray that we may be strengthened, encouraged and be braved enough to be his living witnesses in the world today through our faith in him and our actions that are motivated by the values of the gospel that he taught us. Amen.