Twenty First Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
- Matthew 16:13-20
Did you know that you can find which Bible character you are most like based off of your Myers-Briggs personality type? I don’t even have to google which character I am – I know exactly who I am. Thomas, better known by his nickname, Doubting Thomas. I remember having a conversation with my Mom and I told her I most relate to Thomas in the Bible because of my lack of faith. Her response? “That’s impossible! You have more faith than anyone I know!” I couldn’t believe she could think that with how much I had struggled with doubt.
I thought about her remark a bit as I worked (and continue to work) through my faith. The truth is that I am a lot like Thomas. I doubt much more than I believe. But I realized that I made a mistake in the way I phrased my weakness. It wasn’t a lack of faith. It was a lack of belief. And the two are not one in the same.
You see, if we really have faith that Jesus is the Christ, then we have no choice but to love him and follow Him. If we truly have faith in Him, we WILL follow him! Our brains don’t always allow us to comprehend our beliefs. They are complex and messy. But we can tell that we have or don’t have faith by looking at our lives.
Our faith requires that we give a personal answer to the question, “Who do you say I am?” And if you’re speaking it with your voice, but not with your life, you don’t truly believe. Because if you did, your life would look differently. The question is… “If Jesus is who I think he is, how should my life look?”
If you’re looking for a ‘swift kick in the pants’, head on over to 1 John and get to reading. I’ll help you out: “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen,cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” (1 John 4:20-21) Harsh truth but a good reminder.
It seems that we, Christians, have been defining ourselves by our belief, rather than our faith, or in other words, by our theological beliefs rather than our faith in action. I have heard from too many people about which Christians are ‘in’ and which are ‘out’ based off of a plethora of theological beliefs, including but definitely not limited to Atonement theology, Eucharistic theology, Infant or Adult Baptism, Perseverance of the Saints vs. Losing Salvation, Theology of Hell, Interpretation of Scripture, etc. But what if we listened to John’s words and instead defined ourselves by our faith, which can be proven by our actions?
I view our faith journey to be a lot like a marriage. We’re not always going to feel it. We may not always understand exactly why the heck we chose this person. But we CHOOSE to love, just as we CHOOSE to have faith. Our faith may change just as a relationship in marriage changes. Do not be discouraged if you are in a place in your life where belief is hard to muster. Prove that you have faith by following Him anyway.
Our greatest example is Mother Teresa. Her letters and journals show a life full of private spiritual struggle and doubt. Was it a crisis of faith? I don’t believe so. A crisis of belief maybe, but look at her life… she clearly had FAITH in Jesus’ calling to pick up your cross and follow Him or else she wouldn’t have given up everything to serve the poor. There are countless saints who have gone before us to show us the way of faith, not always of strong belief, but a life of faith nonetheless. Let’s look to them and be encouraged in our time of doubt. Let’s read their life stories and challenge ourselves to move one foot in front of the other even when our brains are begging us to give up. Let’s encourage one another rather than define each other by our theological beliefs. By their fruits you will know them. (Matthew 7:20) Let’s bear some fruit!
So as I reflect on the upcoming Gospel reading for Sunday, these are the questions I ask myself:
Does my life reflect my faith in Jesus?
If he is who I think he is, am I giving up my life to follow Him?
If I show I love Him by following His commands, am I loving others?
He asks us today and everyday, “Who do you say I am?” May our lives answer the question before our mouths can even breathe a word.