But who do you say I am?”
It’s the central question of the Gospel for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time. It’s the central question of the Gospel, period. If you look at the Gospel of Mark, it’s right there in Chapter 8, smack dab in the literal center of that Gospel. It’s the central question of Christianity, period.
The Petrine confession of faith at Caesarea Philippi is the heart of the Gospel because it is an existential question. Jesus asks his apostles two questions. The first is a reporter’s question: “Who do people say I am?” The apostles can answer it by research: Some say A; others B; a few C.
The second question can’t be answered by a survey, except perhaps of one’s heart.
It’s not just informational. “Who do you say that I am?” requires me to take a stand. It demands my commitment.
We perhaps often have an image of Jesus standing, dressed in his cloak, looking into Peter’s (or my) eye and asking, “Who do you say that I am?” I want to propose a slightly different image.
Jesus is looking into your eye right now — from the Eucharist. “Who do you say I am? Not “what” do you say I am? “Who” do you say I am?
In this very strange year, when there has been a massive, months-long moratorium on the Mass, Jesus’ question in 2020 is: “Who do you say that I am?”