Zechariah 12:10-11; 13:1
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus asks His disciples a question: "Who do the crowds say that I am?" And after they answer, Jesus asks another question: "But who do you say that I am?" And Peter responds, "The Christ of God." Then Jesus tells them what is going to happen, and how He will be the Christ: "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."
And so, we know who Jesus is: The Christ, our Lord and Savior. We know what He has done for us: He lived, suffered, died, and rose from the dead. We know why He has done this for us: He did this out of love for us, in order to save us. And we know where He is: He is in heaven with the Father, but also in us.
Knowing the who, what, where, and why about Jesus reveals to us about who we are, and the kind of people we are meant to be, and what we are meant to do, and where we hope to be.
In our reading from Galatians, St. Paul writes, "Through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus." We are all beloved children of God. That love, if we really accept it, compels us to respond. And so Jesus says, "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." The love of Christ for us calls us to love in return. When we choose to love God and others as well as ourselves, we will find it necessary at times to deny ourselves, to put the needs of others before our own. We will find it better to surrender to God’s will. We will find our true selves by being willing to let go of any self-centeredness.
When we accept the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, we find ourselves willing to take up the crosses that come up in our lives, knowing that Jesus is with us in our sufferings as well as in our joys. And the more we know and understand who Jesus is, and what He has done and continues to do for us, the more we are willing to follow Him. And the more we are willing to tear down divisions and barriers that exist between us. Again, from our second reading: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." If we could put that truth into practice, think what kind of a Church, what kind of a world it would be!
And if someone would ask us why we live this way; why we choose to love as Jesus did, we could answer, "Because of what He did for us, and because we want to be where He is for all eternity."
Who is Jesus for us? When we take the time and make the effort to understand the answer to that question, we will also be able to answer the question about who we are and what we are meant to do with our lives.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P. is the director of St. Paul of the Cross Retreat and Conference Center, Detroit, Michigan.