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.
What does Peter’s response have to do with our lives? What about this pandemic we are still immersed in? 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.
Jesus experiences our suffering personally. Whatever we may be going through, sickness, the effects of Covid and pneumonia, loss of job, financial stress, conflict, lack of access to adequate health care, or even the lack of being treated with and afforded the basics of human dignity; such as those of Asian descent living in our country who have faced the astronomical increase of violence directed at them for no rational reason. Even the suffering of the death of those we hold close to our heart, Jesus experienced. Jesus experienced the fullness of the human condition. He feels our anxiety, fear, and pain.
Our own personal challenges, trials, and tribulations as well as the ongoing polarization and division in our country and Church will continue as long as we refuse to see the dignity present in each and every person we encounter. Human beings are not: illegal, to be objectified, property to be used, to be abused, or to be disposed of. Difference in viewpoint our outlook does not mean we are enemies. We can work to limit the effects of Covid if we wash our hands often and don’t touch our face, wear masks, social distance, and receive vaccinations if we are able to access them. We can provide work and access to adequate health care as well as reduce the scourge of racism, when we have the will to resist seeking scapegoats and instead work together for the common good of all.
We need to ground ourselves in the life of and 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 the dignity of life at every stage. We need to respect, be present to, and support those around us and while we strive for change, we can 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: 6th century icon from St Catherine’s Monastery
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.