Gospel – Luke 9:18-24

Once when Jesus was praying by himself,
and the disciples were with him,
he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
They said in reply, “John the Baptist;
others, Elijah;
still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’”
Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.”
He scolded them
and directed them not to tell this to anyone.He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.”Then he said to all,
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

Reflection on the Gospel

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.

One of the greatest insights – and mysteries – of Christianity is its emphasis on the question of personhood, of the “who.” Just as God’s inmost essence is three divine Persons, human beings, too, are created as persons in community. We are not objects, we are not “what.” We are “who,” and today’s Gospel reminds us that the question of salvation is a question of “who.” Who are we, and who is Jesus?

As believers, we must be cautious that we never allow our faith to degrade from a relationship with the living person of Jesus, the ultimate “Who,” into a relationship with a “what” of any kind. Yet even the Apostles fall into this trap. Jesus is just John the Baptist, or just another prophet. Only Peter intuits the radical newness of Jesus’s divine Personhood, and the meaning of the fact that this Person has indeed entered our ordinary human world.

Many contemporary voices echo the Apostles’ initial misidentification of Jesus. Jesus, some claim, was just another “wisdom teacher” or a “philosopher,” a historical figure with some great ideas but ultimately no different from other important, insightful thinkers. Some just want to politicize Jesus. “Oh, he was really just preaching communism.” “Oh, he really just wanted us to have democracy.”

Whenever we think this way, we allow Jesus to become an ideology, which we can then substitute for Christianity. “All Jesus really wants is for me to be a good person, so I can do that and ignore the Church’s teachings.” Or: “The Church is the body of Christ, so I will just work for it and ignore the complexities of the secular world, or of other religious traditions.”

But Jesus’s call is more than both of these. It is, first and foremost, a summons to an interpersonal encounter similar to the friendships we maintain with our fellow men and women. My relationship with my friend does consist of knowledge, but it is not just an affirmation of certain facts. If I said, “Yes, I know Jane, she has brown hair, blue eyes, and likes action movies,” but had never talked to her, laughed with her, shared my experiences with her, or shared her burdens, am I really her friend? Indeed, am I her friend at all?

Today’s reading reminds us that being Christian consists of more than just affirming certain statements about Christ, God, the saints, or the Church. Intellectual assent is necessary, of course. I know what my friend Jane looks like, I “know” facts about her – just as we know and accept facts about Jesus. But I am also in relation with Jane; there is something “between” us – a bond of love. Likewise, Christianity is this: friendship with Jesus Christ.

Mr. Kristóf Oltvai
Central Catholic High School – Pittsburgh, PA

Saint John Baptist de La Salle – Pray for us.
Live, Jesus, in our hearts – Forever.