We are in election times and polls keep surfacing about personalities, issues, campaigns. And people see the numbers and sometimes spin the numbers to their own advantage. Pollsters have been doing that for a long time, especially in political circles, or presidential elections. George Gallup and Louis Harris have become famous through the last 75 years of American social and political life. They were the masters of surveys and opinion polls which have given the pulse of American life. And the public pays attention to the extent that sometimes one wonders if true freedom is exercised by the populace, since their findings impart a bias toward the final results that exclude many from just feeling that their opinion or their vote matters.
Jesus, we read in the Gospel of this Sunday, from Luke (9: 18-24) has in mind his own take on "the opinion" that people had about him. It is a natural tendency of the human mind to know more about oneself if one is in the public square. As the Son of God he did have infinite knowledge but as a human being who grew in age and in grace in the eyes of the Father he wanted to know more. And therefore he asks his disciples this normal question: Who do people say that I am? The Evangelists, especially Matthew and Luke, give a glimpse of what went on with the answers of his friends. Luke, in this Sunday’s reading, is more concise and not as long or deep in his response. Luke says that Peter answers: "The Christ of God" which is a very good answer. St. Matthew (16: 16) presents the response of Peter also but extends the narrative and gives it a more theological affirmation: "You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God".
That is quite an affirmation from Peter who has been kind of in the dark, like the rest of the Apostles, as to what Jesus' Mission is all about. But both sentences reflect also the living faith of the Christian Community at the time in which the Gospel of Matthew and Luke were written, about forty years after the death of Jesus. The Community of Faith already had matured around the person and the message of Jesus, Son of God, manifested in his power over life and death and around the concept, especially for Matthew who writes with a view in the prophets of the Old Testament in mind, that indeed Jesus is The One promised. He is the Messiah expected from of old. He is the very Son of God who has come to redeem us.
I am sure both answers must have been sweet music to the ears of Jesus as a few lines later in the same chapter he goes back to the mission for which he has been sent to the world and speaks plainly to his disciples of SUFFERING and DYING!! At least he now knows that a glimpse of his true identity and mission is grasped by his closest friends. The Spirit, in time, will remind them of this and everything he had taught them. Again, Peter's answer must have been sweet music to the ears of the Lord prior to his Passion and Death.
How about for us? Give me your opinion about God. If someone, out of the blue, will ask you suddenly: Who is the God in which you believe in? Who is Jesus for you? What would you answer? Hopefully, the answer would be from your LIVED EXPERIENCE of CHRIST IN YOUR LIFE! Books and canned responses may not do it. But a response from the deep recesses of your soul may be more appropriate: A God whom you have experienced as Father, Savior, friend, companion in your journey, a healer of the wounds of your life, a forgiving God in times of your personal failure and sinfulness, a rock to hold on to when everything else fails around you, a guide, a light when darkness comes, when betrayal, disappointments, struggles, hope in times of suffering, of old age, of loneliness after the loved ones have gone, of peace when we die knowing that everything has been done. That may be part of your God experience. And facing our death we may remember his words: "Do not let your hearts be troubled .... I will go but I will come back and take you to myself so that where I am you also may be" (John 14, 3), very comforting, indeed. That is the opinion I wish to have of WHO IS GOD FOR ME.
May God's Peace be yours now and always,