The Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s Gospel reading is familiar: that famous moment when St. Peter is asked that all-or-nothing question, “Who do you say that I am?” We begin by reflecting on who Christ is but today’s readings are not only about His identity; they are also about ours. However we only come to know who we are as Christians by first coming to know, as St. Peter came to know, Jesus. After all we are His Body, His Church; to be ignorant of Christ is to be ignorant of our own self. Is it any wonder that there seems to be such an “identity crisis” among Christians today?
The first reading gives us a prophecy that is echoed in the Gospel when Jesus foretells His own crucifixion. Here we are told that by a victim who we will look upon and mourn we will receive a “spirit of grace and petition…a fountain to purify from sin and uncleanness.” Recall the blood and water that flowed from the side of “him whom they have pierced”; St. John Chrysostom writes that they symbolized the Eucharist and Baptism that would be the life of the Church. Does not Baptism “purify from all sin and uncleanness?” When the broken Eucharist is raised up for us just before Communion, do we not “look on him whom we have pierced,” and do not we inhabitants of Jerusalem mournfully profess then our unworthiness to receive Him? We are the inhabitants of the Holy City of God now; not only are we the ones who have pierced Christ, but we likewise are the beneficiaries of His sacrifice.
What more does Christ teach us about our own identity in the Gospel? First we learned that to be a Christian is to be not only the guilty-the sinner-but also the beneficiary of tremendous graces in spite of that guilt. Furthermore to be a Christian then, says Our Lord, is to die like He has died, to pick up His Cross daily and follow Him. Do you see the progression here? First, we have killed Him by our sins, but He forgives us. Then, in a great act of love, He invites us to draw into loving union with Him by becoming like Him and in doing so the Cross cannot be avoided. This Cross, this death in Christ, is merely the fulfillment of what began at our Baptism; as is said elsewhere in the New Testament we are “baptized into His death.” Immersion in water was always meant to symbolize death and burial; now Christ invites us to let that death become Incarnate so that, as He died we might die; so that as He rose, so might we rise. To be a Christian is to be a sinner who knows Christ, who dies in Christ, ultimately, to live in Him.