From today's Gospel comes this question:
"But who do you say that I am?"
Who indeed? Even during his time here on earth, people wrestled with that question. Today we still do. To some he's a prophet, to some a great teacher, to some a socio-political revolutionary, and to others he was just a nice Jewish boy who really shouldn't have made all of that trouble. Even within our Faith the debate goes on. Do we emphasize his divinity or his socio-political-economic impact upon the world? Do we embrace the Divine Christ or the historical figure of Jesus, (Yeshua), a Nazorean carpenter who history tells us lived in Judea ca: 3 b.c. - 33 a.d.? Do we embrace both and trust in the belief that, as God became Man, we are redeemed through his sacrifice? Theologians, historians, sociologists, and charlatans claiming to be one or all of these, (Dan Brown), will continue to debate these ideas long after I am dust and Windows operating systems will be so advanced that this page will be viewed the way we view hieroglyphics.
Even today, I still have my moments of doubt my quiet little crises of Faith. They often occur at night when I sit alone and face the pains, troubles, and losses of life. I have my Faith and despite this, in moments of weakness, I'll be gripped with a dark cold sense of fear and doubt. Then I remember Peter.
When I was younger, (and I can hear some of you laughing at the fact that I am only in my early 30s), I identified more with Paul. The certainty, the intellectual mind, these all appealed to me. The certainty of youth made for an easy identification with someone who, once he made his conversion, did so with a strength and determination I thought was worthy of emulation.
As I get older I identify more and more with Peter. Confronting my own weaknesses, my own humanity, my own failings, has given me cause to view Peter with a more empathetic eye. While I didn't deny him and then hear a cock crowing; my denials, (wrapped in intellectual arrogance) were no less painful once I realized what I had said and done. Peter who finally saw in himself the humility that he had long sought even when he was a brash, abrasive, obnoxious, Galilean fisherman, has become a comforting presence. A reminder that despite my failings, my Faith remains.
When I first came back to my faith I kept asking, "Who are you Lord? Who are you?" I was so obssessed with finding the answer that I wasn't listening to his own question:
"Who do you say that I am?"
Today and every day I hear that question in my mind and I hear Peter's answer, an answer which has become my own:
"You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."