June 21, 2024

“Who do you say that I am?”
The question is clear, but it may be difficult to answer if we did not encounter or experience the person. If we did encounter and experience the person but not in a very nice way, we may answer with bitterness. It’s another story to tell.
Manong Virgilio Kiat-ong died at 58 last month and just this month, his wife, Cesaria died at 62, leaving the Kiat-ong children orphans.
I presided over the home funeral service of manang Cesaria and my uncle Padi Daniel Cariño read the gospel on Aug. 25. I preached using the gospel where Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?”
“Who do you say that I am?” is a question difficult to answer by the grieving family. The family may also entertain some questions like, “Lord, where are you?” which in their situation may be difficult to answer.
Last week, a mother requested for prayers for the successful surgery of her baby. We indeed included her in our daily masses. But one day, I received a message that the surgery failed and the baby died. Again, the question, “Who do you say Jesus is?” is very difficult to answer. I even said to myself, “Our prayers as a church ended in vain because the baby died.”
We ponder on the beautiful gospel reading of Matthew 16:13-20. The gospel narrates the love story of Jesus and his apostles. Jesus threw two questions that were smartly answered by the apostles. “Who do people say that the son of man is?” and “Who do you say that I am?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Can we say that the answers were all wrong?
As far as I am concerned, they were not wrong. Perhaps, they experienced and encountered Jesus like John the Baptist who went preaching the gospel and the kingdom of God, who preached baptism and repentance, who stood for the truth, and who worked miracles. They may have experienced the prophetic life of Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. They answered that way based on what they experienced and encountered. They were not wrong but some essential things were missing.
Hence, when the apostles were asked, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter stood and from his heart he responded, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.”
Peter was not telling a lie or inventing his answer. He told the truth that Jesus was the Christ. Christ means savior and Jesus means God saves. The name is important. “Jesus” as a name reveals the Father and the name “Christ” reveals the Son as the savior.
We recall the story when Peter challenged Jesus at the sea, “If you are Jesus then command me to walk also on the water to reach you!” While walking on the river, Peter was distracted. He started to sink. He realized he was drowning. He saw his powerlessness. He shouted, “Lord, save me!” Jesus stretched out his hands to save Peter. Peter encountered and experienced the saving act of Jesus and that was the reason for his smart and truthful answer, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” The beautiful encounters and experiences of Peter renewed and fortified his faith with Jesus.
I encourage each one to pray for the suffering and grieving families, the sick people, those in anxiety and depression, and those who live a bitter life due to brokenness and woundedness. We pray for miracles and for the strengthening of their faith. We pray that God will show his love and power to them.
Let us help them reach the peak of faith like what Jesus did when he was dying, saying, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” to “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Jesus defined faith in its simplest sense when he was dying on the cross, “Father into your hands I commend my spirit!”
Let us allow our life to become the avenue and venue of God’s love be experienced by our grieving and suffering brethren, so that when asked, “Who is Jesus?” we allow the kindness in us be the encounter and experience of people who are in dire need of experiencing the love of God.
Reach me at [email protected] or at 0908-727-6735.