Listening and reflecting again today on Matthew’s gospel, we ponder how Peter boldly and filled with faith proclaims Jesus as Messiah, and after Jesus affirms Peters’ response, Jesus generously gives Peter more inside information which Peter just finds too difficult to hear. We’ve probably heard this gospel numerous times.
It amazes me to see how fast Peter can go from such a proclamation, "You are the Messiah" to a Peter who takes Jesus aside and begins to rebuke him. Why? Part of it is that Peter feels threatened. This revelation which Jesus speaks to Peter simply doesn’t fit into Peter’s plans. And Peter has just proclaimed this man to be the Messiah! What is it like when the messiah doesn’t fit into your plans? What is it like for you when you feel like you are being led down a path which you certainly don’t want to go?
I suspect that many of us who read these daily reflections have had similar experiences in our faith journey. We have had those experiences where we come to know Jesus in a profound and intimate way. Soon after this experience, however, there is a request or even a challenge which is put before us. Somewhere in our mind we question, "Certainly Jesus you didn’t mean for this to happen? Or you couldn’t possibly be asking me….?"
Ultimately, I call this purification. It’s the stripping away of the expectations of who we want Jesus to be so we may be attentive to whom Jesus actually is. It frequently can be a painful reality. But in all of scripture, God never conforms to our personal desires. The divine always emphatically insists, "I am God", sometimes with a silent implication back to the human who is wrestling with the relationship, "and you are who?" A perfect example of this is the conclusion of the Job story, and we see it again here with Peter. It is difficult to go through this purification. The gift in all of this is that as we do, we understand the divine much better!
Paradoxically, today’s gospel reflection needs to end with the beginning of today’s gospel. It is only after going through this process of purification that we can most authentically answer Jesus’ question, "Who do you say that I am?"
On this journey of faith, Jesus you are the one who keeps purifying us, challenging us to re-examine the questions of who you are to us. In doing so we continue to discover our selves and our lives anew in your divine light.
Fr. David Colhour, C.P. is on the staff at Christ the King Passionist Retreat Center, Citrus Heights, California.