I’m sure everyone at some point has wondered what other people think of them. What do people say about you. Perhaps more importantly, what do you say about yourself. What I mean is, how do you describe and identify yourself? What describes who you are, that set’s you apart from others? Often, this is answered based on our relationship to others. For example, many can say that they’re married, but who they’re married to specifically better defines you. That brings us to Jesus.
Who is Jesus? This is a question that all people must ask at some point in their lives, often several times. And I am sure that you have given or have heard several answers. A great teacher of morals, a supporter of the vulnerable and outcasts, a social reformer, a savior.
Many of these answers are correct, but it is the answer the Simon Peter gives that is the most correct: The Christ, the Son of the Living God. And identifying Jesus as such is very important. There have been plenty of people in the history of the world who have done much of what Jesus did. Ones who promote charity and love, ones who promote peace, ones who challenge social norms and seek reforms, ones who gather followers and start movements, ones who die for their cause.
But Jesus is unique. He alone is Son of the Living God, he alone offers himself as the pure and innocent victim for the salvation of the world, he alone was raised from the dead, through Him alone grants forgiveness of sins, through Him alone does one become an adopted son of daughter of God the Father, and through Him alone does one obtain heaven, eternal life and the sharing of the glories of God. That is Jesus, and Jesus alone.
When we correctly identify Jesus and acknowledge who he is, God in return identifies and acknowledges who we are, calling us sons and daughters, allowing us to share in his divine and glorious life. And like Peter, he gives us a mission. Jesus reveals to Peter that he is to become the rock of His Church, a rock in which not even death or hell will prevail against. Jesus changes his name to reflect this new identity, this new mission. He is no longer Simon, the son of Jonah, local fisherman. He is Peter, the Rock, the leader of Jesus’ church. That is who he is.
He is also given the keys to the kingdom of heaven, a sign of great authority and responsibility. When you have keys, you have access to places and things others don’t. It is a sign that you are entrusted with something important, something to keep safe, be it your home, car, or some important treasure. Jesus gives to Peter the keys of the Kingdom, entrusting him to lead and guide the Church on earth.
And the foundation, the purpose Peter is given all this, is because of his faith, a faith that recognizes who Jesus is. Now, Peter is not going to be the greatest at this right away, as we will hear next week, but that bold statement of faith is the beginning and the foundation. We who are united to Christ, through our faith, are called Christian. That is our identity, a very important one. It defines our relationship to God, and how we ought to treat one another.
And we are given our own mission as Christians, as followers of Christ. Perhaps not as grand as Peter’s and the apostles, but a mission nonetheless. When we acknowledge in faith Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, we too are given keys in our own sense. An authority and responsibility to build up Kingdom of God, to continue Jesus’ mission in our own way. For myself, it is to serve as a priest. For others it may be a religious life, married life, work in charity, work in teaching, work in evangelizing, and many others.
After this homily, we will all together make a statement of faith. I believe in one God, I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, I believe in the Holy Spirit, I believe in one, holy catholic and apostolic Church. Our confession of faith is the foundation of our Christian lives, that guide and define who we are; adopted sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, seeking to live and remain in the life and presence of God, both now and in eternity. That is who we are, and living that life is our mission.
If you want that faith, that identity strengthened, then seek to know Jesus all the more. Not just knowing about Jesus, but actually getting to know Him. To grow in your personal relationship with him, with his love, his mercy, and his glorious nature. Following his commands, reading and meditating on Sacred Scriptures, spending time in worship and prayer, and showing his love to others though our lives. Open your hearts and minds to Him, let him enter into your life, give him the time and day so that relationship will grow.