|Memorial of St. Vincent de Paul
Psalm 144:1-2, 3-4
I am quite aware that today is the memorial of St. Vincent de Paul. Yet today’s gospel passage is so inviting, that I am choosing to focus my comments on it, rather than on the memorial itself.
The gospel story presents us with three questions, only two of which are explicit in Luke’s version. A third, underlying question is to be found only in Matthew’s rendering of the same episode.
The first explicit question posed by Jesus, “Who do people say I am?”, is a “safe” question, one that can be answered in a noncommittal way. To know what others say about Jesus, one needs only a survey and in fact a correct answer can be given by either a believer or an unbeliever. As such, of course, the question, which does have intellectual legitimacy, is less important at the personal faith level.
The second question coming from Jesus is more direct and, taken seriously, hits us between the eyes. “Who am I for you? What difference do I make in your life?” This one cannot be answered in a noncommittal way and, sooner or later, it calls for a personal stance beyond surveys. Taking a stance before Jesus is not a spectator’s sport. So, who is Jesus for me? The question has to do with knowing Jesus, not with knowing about Jesus.
In Matthew’s version Jesus tells Peter, “You are Rock...”, an answer
to a question Peter never even asked. Yet the fact that Jesus “jumped
the gun” without waiting for Peter’s asking the question can be seen as
an invitation to each one of us to ask, “Lord, who am I for you?”
In general, of course, the answer to such question was already given at
Calvary: someone worth dying for. Still, because each one of us is
unique before God, we have to be open both to pose the question and to
listen to the Lords’ unique answer as to who we are uniquely for him.
But it will not be a “safe” question, for it will reveal to us a rapport
sought by the Lord and rapports cannot be one-way streets.
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