TWENTY-FRIST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Who is Jesus for me?
First Reading (Is 22:19-23): The Lord called Elisha to be God's wholehearted servant.
Second Reading (Rom 11:33-36): Who knows the will of God?
Gospel (Mt 16:13-20): Peter was appointed the Rock of the Church.
-“Seeing the mountain as mountain, Seeing the mountain not as a mountain, Seeing the mountain as mountain again.” (1)
-“I pick up chrysanthemums by the eastern hedge, And to my surprise I suddenly discover the southern mountains.” (2)
“One time Jesus asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ Jesus said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ (Mt 13:23-27)
‘Who do people say that I am?’ We have heard Peter's response. Some people believe in Jesus, some do not. In Hong Kong some people think that ‘talking about Jesus’ is meaningless, words unrelated to life. Views about Jesus, names he is called, how he is valued, differ from person to person.
The disciples first repeated what others had said of Jesus. They said, ‘Some say you are John the Baptist, some say that you are Elijah, that you are Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ Probably to prevent Jesus from ‘losing face’ they did not mention that actually some also said that Jesus was at the disposal of Beelzebub, the prince of devils, or that he was the friend of sinners or a gluttonous person. They did not repeat these remarks about Jesus.
Jesus was not satisfied with these replies. What Jesus really wanted to ask was not others' opinions but rather how the disciples saw him.
Then Peter answered him, ‘You are the Son of God.’
This is the Peter who had listened to Jesus' preaching, witnessed his miracles and walked on the water with Jesus amid the churning waves. It was the same Peter who had personally heard Jesus' call: ‘From now on I will make you fishers of people.’
‘You are the Son of God’ were the words Peter said out loud, a natural, standard reply, an answer any child would give.
Peter was not always so courageous until after the coming of the Holy Spirit. Then he was suddenly filled with courage and preached openly about the crucified Jesus who had been raised from the dead.
From that time on Peter gave his entire life to preaching about Jesus. Until he had undergone great suffering and overcome failure and persecution and came to the end of his life journey, when he shed his own blood to witness to Christ.
There is a tradition that Peter was martyred by crucifixion. At that time he said to his executioners, ‘I am not worthy to be crucified in the same way as Jesus. If you must nail me to the cross, please turn the cross upside down.’ This was Peter’s witness by blood, he reached by shedding his own blood.
The preaching may be the same but the essence is different. One is preaching by word of mouth, the other is preaching by one's life, a preaching by blood.
A Buddhist made this unusual observation: “Seeing the mountain as mountain, Seeing the mountain not as a mountain, Seeing the mountain as mountain again.” The first time he saw the mountain, he said, “Yes, this is a mountain.” But when he was reflecting and exploring the truth, he found that the definition of a mountain was very blurred. The distinction between a mountain and a non-mountain was not obvious. Therefore, he had this observation of “seeing the mountain not as a mountain”. When he finally realized the truth, he perceived the mountain as an experience with life and inextricably linked up with his own life. At that time, he was “Seeing the mountain as mountain again.”
The first mountain and the third mountain are completely different. The first mountain is a mountain of thoughts and senses. The third mountain is a mountain with a life of its own. It is the mountain that Tao Yuan Ming saw when picking chrysanthemums: “I pick up chrysanthemums by the eastern hedge, And to my surprise I suddenly discover the southern mountains.” It is a mountain with life, which we can come to feel.
An answer ‘up to standard’ is easily made, but only an answer true to life, even to the shedding of one's blood, is the true answer - that should be our answer.
Who is Jesus for you? If you answer Jesus is ‘Lord’, do you listen to Jesus and live according to his teachings? Have you ever suffered for his teaching? Have you ever experienced a kind of happiness, even passionate joy when you have listened and obeyed the words of Jesus?
You may say Jesus' Body and Blood is your spiritual food, nourishment for life's journey. But do you receive Holy Communion often and treasure it? Do you often pray before the Blessed Sacrament to converse with Jesus?
You say Jesus is your Savior. Do you treasure your own life, your entire life: physical, spiritual, the present and the future life? Do you have a high regard for your own life and the life of others, do you have respect for your own life and the lives of others?
You say that Jesus brings you hope. But do you harbor within your heart hope about the political situation, hope for Hong Kong, for China, for your own future? You say that Jesus is the Lord of history. But do you really believe that everything is in God's hands? Can you face the future with no fear whatsoever, like a child resting on its mother's bosom?
You say that Jesus is Lord, nourishment, savior, your hope, Lord of history. You say all of these things, but can you testify to your words by your life? Can you affix a seal to this with your blood?
Peter began his preaching with words but completed it with his life and sealed it with his blood.
We too must begin by listening with our ears, and after hearing who Jesus is, preach about him with our own words and seal this with our lives even to shedding our blood. ‘Jesus, you are our Savior, I will live for you and die for you.’