Within each of us is a need to be understood. We need to be recognised for who we really
are and not to be misunderstood. How many conflicts revolve around this issue of
recognition and understanding. It was similarly important to Jesus that people recognise
him. Above all he wanted them to know and realise his divinity.
Jesus sets the scene at a city called after great men and he sounds the disciples out. He asks
for feedback. Who do people say I am? The answers are varied and confused. How different
might contemporary answers be. Some say one thing, others another. He presses them.
Who do you say I am? It is Peter, rash, immediate and impulsive, who, as usual speaks up,
and this time he gets it right. You are the Christ, the son of the living God.
This insight, this gift of faith, Jesus tells him, is the gift of the Father, a gift which makes him
a happy man. He then inducts him as leader of the early church, the rock on which his
church would be built. Jesus plays on words and perhaps makes a joke at Peter’s expense
here. Cephas means rock, yet there seems to be little which is rock-like in Peter at first
sight. This is the one who crumbled at the first pressure and denied any knowledge of
Christ, still less the true nature of his identity.
Christ showed this remarkable ability to change others. Peter who seemed to lack
perseverance and solidity becomes the unshakeable rock on which the church is founded.
Thomas who refused to believe utters the most profound statement of belief, ‘My Lord and
my God’. Magdalene who seemed incapable of true love, becomes released from her past
and capable of tender loving.
The office of pope, or perhaps the unity it signifies which has evolved from here, is
important. It has the potential to keep us together and perhaps also the potential to divide
us. Like Saint Peter himself it can become a sign of contradiction. The power and strength
and the witness value of unity is unmistakeable though.
The central question is; who do we say Christ is? The answer we give to this determines our
response to his gospel and to his example. If God is speaking to us directly through his Son
then we ought to listen very carefully indeed. Christ, if he is not the Son of God seems a
very foolish character indeed. If he is the Son of God, and we believe he is, then we ought
to respond to him by acknowledging his true identity and reacting accordingly.
Like Peter, we are torn between belief and betrayal many times but we can manage to
stammer at least today, ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God’.