Deep inside us, most of us feel that something is wrong with ourselves. We cannot always say what it is and why it is so. It could be a sense of our inadequacy, or of our guilt. Or simply we fear that our inner self is not as good as our external and social self. We are afraid to be found out. Would others still love me if they see me the way I see myself deep inside?
We need Someone – God – who would tell us who we really are and love us to the point that we would know in our lives that we are forgiven and renewed. We need to be told that our deepest identity is to be a son or a daughter of God the Father, a brother or sister of Jesus Christ, a member of his Body – the Church – and a living temple of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus Christ, in his human nature, was the first one to become aware of this identity as the Son of the Living God. And he often gives us a share in that identity, a share in his true Self. This is happening for Peter in today’s Gospel. Jesus is asking Peter “Who do you say that I am”. And the Father inspired him that beautiful answer. “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”. Now, Jesus already knows who he was at his baptism and again at his transfiguration, he heard the Father say, “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11, Matthew 17:5) But it was necessary for Peter to say out loud who Jesus is so that he might receive from God his own true self, his deepest identity. That he, Peter, is the rock of which Jesus will build his Church.
What a transformation in Peter’s self-perception! So many times, he had been unstable, too quick to speak and act, too impetuous. Now he literally receives a deeper identity. He will eventually die confessing that his identity and true self cannot be separated from the true self and identity of Jesus Christ. “Nothing can separate us from love of God that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:38-39) Peter will fall again at the Passion, pretending he doesn’t even know Jesus three times. But Jesus will lift him up again and again. On Holy Thursday, Jesus told him that he would deny knowing him three times. “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32) Yes, Peter will become the rock who strengthens his brothers.
Are you afraid to tell others who you think you really are? Ask Jesus Christ and Peter to strengthen you in believing you and affirming that you are the beloved in and through Jesus. Ask the grace to identify with Jesus living in you and not to identify with your weaknesses and sinfulness. Your deepest identity is beyond that. You are way more than you think you are. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, who has begun your definitive transformation. Now, you can fulfill your mission.
God bless you throughout my sabbatical year and always!
“Grace is nothing else but a certain beginning of glory within us.”
– St. Thomas Aquinas