Tuesday, January 18, is the Feast of the Confession of Saint Peter. On this day we commemorate the event, depicted in all three synoptic Gospels, where St. Peter, upon being questioned by Our Lord, declared, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” (St. Matthew 16:16) While the scene occurs in the Gospels according to Saints Matthew, Mark, and Luke, it is only in St. Matthew’s account where we see St. Peter particularly commended for this answer. Our Lord says to the saint,
“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (St. Matthew 16:17-19)
We face the same pair of questions that St. Peter faced each and every day. Every time we go out into a world that ever-increasingly more pagan and less Christian, we find ourselves facing people who have already decided who Jesus “really” is—or, in many of their minds, who he was. There is a cohort of scholars, quite highly regarded in some circles, who refer to themselves as “The Jesus Seminar.” These men and women have sought to reconstruct who Jesus “really was.” Some say, “he was a failed apocalyptic prophet,” or he was “a magician,” or he was “a renegade rabbi,” “an exile from Qumran,” or so many others. Sadly, it is only the minority opinion, whose adherents are scoffed at as backwards and superstitious, that Our Lord was who He says He was: God’s only Son who came redeem the world. But we need not look to scholars for insights such as these.
All around us are non-believers, atheists, agnostics, neo-pagans, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Jews. These are not people who have never heard the name of Jesus. In America, who can really say they have never heard His name? Maybe they have only heard of it as an expletive, but they have heard it! All of these people have come to a conclusion about who He is. He is a myth, a ghost story, a fable. He is a construct of later religious authorities trying to control the population. He was “a good moral teacher, but not the son of God.” That one is particularly popular, though C. S. Lewis debunked it quite thoroughly. All around us people have come to their own conclusion.
And each one of us is also faced with the question: “Who do you say that I am?” Those of us who are Christian have made a choice to give our hearty “yes and amen” to St. Peter’s confession. We believe that He is “the Christ [the Messiah], the Son of the Living God.” Depending on our background, we may launch into “light from light, very God from very God, begotten not made…” Like Saint Peter, we are blessed when we come to a place where we can make such a confession, yet we are not blessed by making; we are blessed to make the confession.
Jesus said, “Blessed are you… for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” There is no amount of rationalizing that can push us over the threshold from non-belief into faith. There is no un-refutable argument that overpowers all reason. There is no experiment that rules out all disbelief. There is no testimony that puts to rest all doubt. Every one of us comes to a place where we have done everything that we can to come to terms with the reality or lack thereof in the Incarnation. We all come to a place where we must move beyond what “flesh and blood” can discern and take that leap of faith.
We must keep in mind, however, that faith itself is a gift of the Holy Spirit and “no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.” (I Corinthians 12:3, 9) The very act of belief in the Lord is a gift from Him, a blessing in and of itself. That gift has been presented to all of us. Every man, woman, and child in all of creation has been given, since the moment of the Incarnation, the opportunity to receive the free gift of redemption. Jesus is that oasis and desert wilderness that is so good that it must be a mirage. Thousands look at the shade and the water from a distance and refuse to draw near and drink because He seems “too good to be true.” All of us who believe that Christ is Lord have picked up that free gift that was given to us and made it our own. We have an obligation, not only to share the Gospel with non-believers, but also to pray that those around us who do not know who He is, will likewise have the grace to accept the free gift given once and for all.
This week also begins an octave (eight days) of prayer for Christian unity and concludes with the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul. Pray for unity within the Church of Jesus Christ–may we all worship as one! Look for the next post as updates around March for Life and on the Conversion of Saint Paul.