Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone.
And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.
The first Christian generations preserved the memory of this Gospel incident as a story of vital importance to the followers of Jesus. Their instinct was right. They knew that the church of Jesus had to have the question put to it again and again, the one Jesus asked his disciples in the vicinity of Caesarea Philippi: “Who do you say I am?”
If in Christian communities we allow our faith in Jesus to die out, we’ll lose our identity. We will not be able to carry out with creative fearlessness the mission Jesus entrusted to us; we’ll not dare to face up to the present challenges or remain open to the newness of his Spirit; we’ll be suffocated in our mediocrity.
Ours are not untroubled times. If we do not return to Jesus more truly and with greater fidelity, our lack of direction will go on paralyzing us; our fine discourses will continue to lose credibility. Jesus is the key, the foundation and the source of all we are , we say and we do. Who is Jesus for Christians today?
We confess, as Peter did, that Jesus is the “Messiah of God”, the one Sent by the Father . This we hold as true: God so loved the world that he gave us Jesus as a gift. Do we Christians know how to accept, care for, enjoy and celebrate this great gift of God? Is Jesus the center of our celebrations, our meetings and gatherings?
We confess him to be the “Son of God”. He can teach us to know God better, to trust more in his goodness as a Father, to listen with more faith to his call to build a more fraternal and just world for all. Are we making known in our communities the true face of God incarnate in Jesus? Do we know how to proclaim and communicate him as Good News for all?
We call Jesus “Savior”, because he has the power to humanize our lives, to liberate us, and to direct human history towards its true and final salvation. Is this the hope we cherish among us? Is this the peace that spreads out to others from our communities?
We confess that Jesus is our only “Lord”. We do not want to have other lords, or submit to false idols. But does Jesus truly occupy the center of our lives? Does he hold the absolute first place in our communities? Do we place him above everything and everyone? Do we belong to Jesus? Is he the one who animates and inspires us?
The main task of Christians today is to join forces and to open up ways to reaffirm the central place of Jesus in his church. Everything else flows from this.