Naming Jesus

Whole books have been written about the question Jesus posed to His disciples at the start of today’s Gospel, “Who do you say that I am?” It is a question every follower of Jesus has to grapple with at some point in their spiritual journey. Is Jesus just a nice guy who taught some nice things? Is He a prophet who wants you to change some parts of your life if you feel like it? Is He the Savior of the whole world yet your most intimate companion who desires you to commit yourself to him every moment of every day? Our answers to these questions radically affect how we live our lives. 

Something beautiful happens in today’s Gospel between Peter and Jesus. Peter, rightly, names Jesus for who He is – the Christ. The Holy Spirit revealed to Peter Jesus’ true identity. It’s not that Jesus had hidden it, but that it was so profound human hearts could not fully grapple with it. Even to today, we cannot adequately explain with our human understanding how Jesus is fully God and fully human. The Incarnation is a mystery only to be fully beheld in heaven. 

Nonetheless, Peter’s ability to name Jesus as the Christ reveals something critical for all Christians who follow after him. Peter knew who Jesus was – The Lord. Names are of special importance in the Bible and in Jewish culture. To know someone’s name meant to have some claim of ownership or control over it. God gave the animals to Adam to name, to have authority over and to be stewards of. 

When Peter names Jesus, he was entering into this sacred space with Jesus. However, God is not controlled by human beings and certainly does not submit to our authority. So what was happening here? Let’s listen to Dr. Richard Bulzacchelli of the St. Paul Center regarding God’s name. He is speaking about God’s revelation to Moses, but I see how this same lesson applies here because Peter’s confession comes from the Holy Spirit’s revelation. 

“Thus, when God reveals his name to Moses and, through Moses, to Israel, he is voluntarily assuming a posture of vulnerability before them, yet, there is no way they can actually control him or do him harm. He does not need them but only wants them.  His vulnerability is based entirely on his own intention to bless and to love a creature whom he made capable of a free response.  Thus, God is saying that he will answer all who call upon his name, not because he must, not because they have exercised any power over him by invoking his name, but because he now pledges to be their God and to cherish them as his own.  His name is, thus, also a promise.  It means, ‘I am present to you always and everywhere,’ an idea represented in the word ‘Emmanuel,’ or, ‘God-with-us.’”

Jesus, Christ, Emmanuel, God-with-us, is the same friend Peter proclaimed as his Lord. Jesus is waiting for our heartfelt confession of His rightful place in our lives. Will we proclaim Him the Christ of our heart today?

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Kate Taliaferro is an Air Force wife and mother. She is blessed to be able to homeschool, bake bread and fold endless piles of laundry. When not planning a school day, writing a blog post or cooking pasta, Kate can be found curled up with a book or working with some kind of fiber craft. Kate blogs at DailyGraces.net.

Feature Image Credit: catholicstudiesacademy.com/on-the-unpronounceability-of-the-divine-name/

Jesus, Our One, True God

Today’s Old Testament reading sounds a bit scary: “You alone have I favored, more than all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your crimes.”  The last lines are particularly ominous: “So now I will deal with you in my own way, O Israel! And since I will deal thus with you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel.”

I am always surprised when I read about all the trouble the Israelites were always getting into. They were God’s Chosen People, delivered by Him from the power of the Egyptians and led to the land He had promised them. They had ample opportunity to witness the power and miracles of God, and Moses and the prophets gave them clear rules to follow to please Him. Yet they were continually falling into sin, particularly that of worshipping the false gods of the cultures around them.

But are we so different?  Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Irenaeus, a Doctor of the Church who was instrumental in fighting the heresy of Gnosticism. He reminds us of the seductive quality of evil when he writes, “Error, indeed is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced more true than truth itself.

We may not be worshipping golden statues or sacrificing people to Baal nowadays, but don’t we let attractive worldly things come between us and God? Perhaps it’s money, or power, or romance, or status, or even being right instead of being kind. You alone know what your idols are, but we all have them.

We live in difficult and confusing times. We spend much of our time on social media consuming other people’s opinions. People we respect share ideas that seem to make sense. We are bombarded by messages designed to ensnare our hearts and minds. It can be hard to discern what is factual, let alone what is Truth. Politics and opinions can be idols too.

Just like the apostles in today’s Gospel, we are battered by the storm around us.  It can be easy to laugh at their fear. After all, they had Jesus right there in the boat with them! How could they be afraid that He would allow them to sink? 

Well, I have news for you. Jesus is in our boats too.  And while, as the Psalmist reminds us, He is a God of justice, we also know that his judgment is tempered with mercy.  When we turn from our idols, He will be there waiting for us. 

He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?”
Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea,
and there was great calm. 

May you feel that calm in your life today.

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Leslie Sholly is a Catholic, Southern wife and mother of five, living in her hometown, Knoxville, Tennessee. She graduated from Georgetown University with an English major and Theology minor. She blogs at Life in Every Limb, where for 11 years she has covered all kinds of topics, more recently focusing on the intersection of faith, politics, and social justice.

Feature Image Credit: falco, pixabay.com/photos/christian-picture-historical-bible-2579648/