Friday, September 15, 2006

Ordinary Time Sunday 24

Who do people say that I am?

On one level, this is a very odd question. Jesus of Nazareth. Son of Mary and Joseph. Carpenter from Galillee. Preacher. Even healer perhaps. They knew exactly who he was. He never stole anyone's identity. He did not impersonate another person for his own, or anyone else's gain. They all knew his name. Where he was from. What he did.

And yet, they kept asking this question. We hear it again and again in Mark's Gospel. When he forgave the sins of the paralysed man, they said 'who is he who forgives sins'. When he stilled the storm, they said 'Who is he, that the wind and waves obey him?' At his trial before the Jewish council, they asked 'Who are you - are you the Christ?' And Jesus asks his disciples the same question - Who do people say I am? Who do you think I am?

Identity runs far deeper than a name, a face. Identity is much more than a fingerprint, a retinal scan, DNA. All they do is say that you are not someone else. They cannot tell us who someone really is.

When we truly know someone, it is not an encounter of the mind and intellect. It is a meeting of the heart. I remember when I was at university I knew a lad, same age as me, who had an identical twin. They weren't always together, so I knew one twin, but not the other. They were identical in appearance. Identical fingerprints and DNA. They moved in a similar way. They even wore similar clothes. And when I once met the other twin, I knew straight away that he was not the brother I knew. Perhaps it was a facial expression, the fact he did not know me. I don't know - but he was certainly different.

Knowing someone, truly knowing someone, is being able to anticipate some of their attitudes, their actions. It is knowing likes and dislikes, dispositions, interests and concerns.

Recognising, knowing Christ, as Peter truly does in todays Gospel, is not appearances, titles, names. It is a matter of faith, of commitment, of love. It is his heart speaking to our heart. It is not so much about ideas. It may be something that is hard to explain or even justify.

But to know Christ is to know that he has given his life for us, and that we give our lives to him.

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