Of Christ and Us: Who Do You Say That I Am?
Tuesday 12 July 2011
The question that stands at the heart of the Incarnation, the question that Jesus poses to Peter and the rest of his disciples in the middle of Mark’s Gospel (Mk 8:29), is not simply the most fundamental Christological question, but it is also the most fundamental question of theological anthropology – who is it that we are, who is it that I am? There is undoubtedly an overlap between the two, for as the Eastern Christian tradition recalls much more readily than we do in the West, when we become most human we become most like Christ (from the tradition of theosis or huiopoesis).
I’m thinking about this question today because we have begun the last week of our interprovincial Solemn Vow retreat. This week we are invited by Fr. Jack Clark Robinson, OFM, of the South Eastern Our Lady of Guadalupe Province to consider this question within the framework of two others: who am I in relation to the family of the Franciscan Order and who am I in relation to the Church more broadly.
There are indeed times when I believe that the question of Jesus to Peter in Mark’s account of the Good News was not simply a handy way to get at the messianic mission of the Son of God, as if to remind his followers and, millennia later, us of who Jesus is. Instead, I think that Jesus also needed a reminder of who he really was. We mustn’t forget that Jesus was also fully human and, like all human beings, grew into a fuller understanding of who he was as life went on. Scripture says as much in Luke’s account of the young Jesus with the teachers, after which he “increased in wisdom and in years” (Lk 2:52).
How is it that we increase in wisdom when we inevitably increase in years? Do we? The answer to the question of both who do others and who do we say that we are changes with those years. What does the answer look like? Does the wisdom in which we grow reflect the Divine wisdom that St. Paul talks about or does it reflect more closely the so-called wisdom of the world?
These are questions we can all grapple with along the pilgrimage of life. In so doing, may our journeys be ones that do bring us closer to becoming Son-like (huiopoesis), more and more like the children of God that we were created to be. While neither our response nor the response of others to us should sound exactly like Jesus’s (“you are the messiah”) because each person has a unique and unrepeatable identity, it should highlight the ways in which we are drawn more closely and personally into relationship with God, others and creation.
Our response should move more and more closely toward the response: “I am me, individually and uniquely loved into existence by God. As such, I am called to be evermore Christ-like in all aspects of my life and in whatever situations life places me.”