We are all familiar with the gospel reading which records Peter’s confession of faith. Though we like to imagine we would have responded to Jesus the same way Peter did if we were in his situation, how many of us spend time reflecting on what this encounter must have meant for Jesus? Scripture scholars have told us that he, like all other humans, only discovered his identity gradually, largely by means of the feedback given him by those with whom he lived.
Many of the parables indicate the dynamics which go into this process of self-identity. The story of the prodigal son for example. What a surprise he must have had when he returned home. In his own eyes, he saw himself as a wretch, not worthy to eat food fit for pigs. His father’s royal treatment, in contrast, conveyed the message that he was lovable. How easy it must have been to repent in the warmth of that love; or, perhaps, how difficult to sustain such great love in the light of his previous behavior! Regardless, the result was a changed person with a new perception about himself. Frequently we, too, either directly or indirectly ask others, “Who do you say I am?” The answer is crucial for us.
It might be interesting to write down a list of sentences which describe what various people have told us about ourselves recently, as well as the words or actions that conveyed this message. By ignoring us, did others tell us we were insignificant? Or, by such a simple thing as the way they greeted us, did they tell us we are nice to have around regardless of whether or not we do or say anything of importance? We might reflect, also, on the messages we have sent out to others lately which indicate how we feel about them. Finally, we might consider what we have done or said to Jesus recently which answers His question, “Who do you say I am?” Our answer is of supreme importance to Him.
—Sister Mary E. Penrose, OSB
Sister Mary E. Penrose is a Sister of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. She edits readings for the liturgical Hours and writes reflections for the Community. And she is a tutor for the African Sisters attending The College of St. Scholastica. She was editor of a journal, Spirit & Life, for 18 years.
Read all Sister Mary E.’s reflections.