Jesus asked, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is” (Mt. 16:13)?
If you heard or read the Gospel from yesterday, you may be experiencing a bit of deja vu. Yesterday, we heard from Mark’s account of this incident, and since today is the feast of the Chair of St. Peter we are hearing the same account again, although this time from Matthew’s Gospel.
Peter answers Jesus by saying that Jesus is: “The Messiah, the Son of the Living God” (Mt: 16:16). In other words, Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us.
When we dig a little deeper, another question that might overshadow the question of who Jesus is, especially since on the 14th of February we remembered the first anniversary of the deaths in Florida of the fourteen youth who died at Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS. Since that time about 1,200 more youth have died from gun violence. The presidents of all the world wide bishops conferences are in the midst of a four day summit with Pope Francis in Rome to address the abuse of children. Children have been separated from their families while seeking asylum, are still separated from their families and two, Jakelin, seven years old, and Felipe, eight died while is US custody. Governor Cuomo of New York within the last month signed a law updating their 1970 law so that now a woman has the right to carry her child to term or abort the life of her child at any stage of the pregnancy.
What does Peter’s response have to do with the above examples of the stripping of the dignity of our children? Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God. This means Jesus is one with us. The infinite reality of God is present within each human being that exists, because Jesus became one with us so that we can be one with him. We have been created in God’s image and likeness and this is true from the moment of our conception through each stage of life until natural death.
This means that Jesus has experienced the death personally of the fourteen youth who died at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, and the 1,200 plus since that day, Jesus experienced being abused through the children abused inside and out of the church, Jesus suffers with those fleeing violence only to be then separated at our US border, and experienced the death of Jakelin and Felipe, and he experiences the death of each and every life that is aborted. For what you do to the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you did it to me (cf. Mt 25:31-46).
A culture of death will continue as long as we refuse to see the dignity present in each and every life we encounter. Human beings are not: illegal, to be objectified, property to be used, to be abused or to be disposed of. As we pray and work to bring about a culture that supports life we also must remember that pain, injustice, suffering, and death do not have the last word. Jesus suffered and died and he conquered death.
Let us place our trust in Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God, let us turn to him in prayer, with our anger, our doubt, our pain, and yearning for justice and protection for the most vulnerable among us. Let us respect, be present, and support those in our realm of influence and while we strive for change, may we find some comfort in the words of Fr. James Martin, S.J.: “Life is stronger than death. Love stronger than hatred. Hope is stronger than despair. Nothing is impossible with God.”
Photo: Circle of Longing: Tacloban Slum, Philippines by hotpasta
Final quote, came from a talk given by Fr. James Martin, S.J. given on April 22, 2014 titled On Pilgrimage with James Martin, SJ, Fordham University.