Jesus asked, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is” (Mt. 16:13)?
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 second anniversary of the deaths in Florida of the fourteen youth who died at Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS. Since that time a low estimate of about 2,641 and a high can be 4,500 to 5,000 more youth have died from gun violence. The presidents of all the worldwide bishops conferences gathered in Rome a year ago this month for a four-day summit with Pope Francis in Rome to address the abuse of children by clergy. Children continue to be separated from their families after the president signed his executive order in the summer of 2018, up to 1,100 that the government has admitted to. Governor Cuomo of New York about this time last year signed a law updating their 1970 law allowing a woman 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 the children of God? 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. The unfortunate effects of Orignal sin are that our image has been distorted and our likeness to God has been lost. The fact that intelligent people can justify and rationalize the death of children is the worst case in point.
This means that Jesus has experienced personally the death of the fourteen youth who died at Marjory Stoneman Douglas two years ago, and each of those counted and uncounted youths who have died since that day as a result of gun violence. Jesus experienced the untold number of children who have and continue to be abused and molested. Jesus has and continues to suffer with those children who have continued to flee from violence only to be separated from their parents and detained in inhumane conditions at our US border. Jesus experiences the death of each and every life in the hundreds of thousands that are aborted each year, in our country alone. How does Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, experience these horrific tragedies? 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 conquered death.
We need to place our trust in Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, and turn to him in prayer, with our anger, our doubt, our pain, and our yearning for justice, mercy, and protection for the most vulnerable among us. Our prayer, if it is true, will lead us to act in the way God leads us to support a culture of life at every stage. We need to respect, be present to, 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: photo of a Honduran girl accessed from advocatespost.org
The 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.