18th Thursday in Ordinary Time
“But who do you say I am?” There is an easy but unreal way of answering this question. Look up the text book and then move on to other more interesting issues.
To really answer this question – we must answer with our very lives. We can never even begin to answer this unless all our other options end in dead ends and this question is all that is left standing.
Only then can it become the quest of a lifetime – it does not matter when – at the first hour or the eleventh hour. Whenever, this question must excavate all the secret spaces of pride in us, the spaces of secret rebellion, all the spaces in us that cry out ‘I will not serve’
Peter is like us. He thinks he is being helpful. He thinks he is doing Jesus a favor. But he is the rebel who reduces the Christ event to the dimensions of his worldly mind. The worldliness of self-preservation. Christ on the other hand is the very surrender of God – for God so loved the world that He gave us His only Son. Pride is horrified by such surrender. So no matter how helpful and well-meaning Peter’s advice – it is infected by pride that loves self more than God. Peter wants to define Christ by Peter rather than letting Peter be defined by Christ.
The General of the Cistercians of the Common Observance, Dom Mauro Giuseppe has traveled extensively to monasteries and is also one of the prophetic voices today. He maintains that the crisis in monasticism and in religious life in general is that the vocation does not define us. There are other noble competing factors that do but no matter how noble they cannot cut it. He says ‘when our vocation does not affect our life, the problem is not so much what we are or are not, but the fact that the event of Christ, dead and risen, does not define us more than we define ourselves. At times, I am left bewildered by the extreme and insane consequences of some people leaving their vocation. But when you look at it more closely, you realize that the true problem is not fragility, but the fact that the Christ event, which in a vocation should be everything, like the mother’s womb for the fetus, did not define self-awareness of the person who leaves his vocation. There were other factors, even quite noble ones perhaps but which do not coincide with the Christ event.
So our very perseverance in our vocation depends on letting this question define us – Who do you say I am. All the other reasons will fall away. This is one we carry into eternity with us.