21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings: Isaiah 2: 19-23; Psalm 138, R. Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.; Romans 11: 33-36; Gospel: Matthew 16: 13-20
Whenever someone comes to talk to me about how they seem to be losing their faith in God, I pose the question: Are you losing your faith in God or losing faith in your image of God?
Many of us go through this part of our journey in faith when our images of God and the practice of our faith seem inadequate. There are many ways of looking at this experience, but let me focus on just a couple of perspectives.
There comes a point in life when our frameworks or paradigms fail to make sense of new experiences.
Perhaps one of the most known examples of this is Thomas Kuhn’s paradigm shift in science. It explains that science works on a stable paradigm until an anomaly takes place, which necessitates not a gradual shift, but a scientific revolution coming from a paradigm shift.
An example is when Copernicus shifted the thinking from a geocentric universe to a heliocentric one; the sun, not the Earth is the center. Galileo further developed this paradigm and, in a sense created another shift.
Galileo argued and proved that mathematics is the stronger language, so to speak, of natural philosophy, and not words and qualitative study. This paved the way for greater scientific study—and also gained the attention of the inquisition.
More related to the spiritual journey, Parker Palmer points out that there will come a point when we ask ourselves, “Is the life that I am living, the life that wants to live in me?”
He explains that we come into this world whole, with a sense of integrity, which I think is the DNA of our mission. However, we spend the first half of our life meeting other people’s expectations and wearing other people’s masks, as he puts it.
We are weaned away from our authentic self. We disintegrate. This is the anomaly that makes us ask the question, “Is this the life that wants to live in me?”
This anomaly makes us seek the journey to healing and regaining our wholeness. It is the journey back to our integrity. For me, this is mission—why we came into this world, or more apt, why we were sent into this world.
Our identity and mission are the source of our integrity, integrity that lies in our authentic self, who we are and why we are here.
It is in this context of identity and mission where we are confronted with this “dilemma.”
The real answer
“Who do people say that I am?” If you ask this about yourself—role-play a fantasy exercise of you asking yourself this question—chances are, you will give the wrong answer. Or, it may be a try answer based on our “limited facts”—my name is…, my parents are…, I was born in, live in, studied in…
But the question you will always want to ask is the same follow-up question of Jesus, “But you, who do you say that I am?” Then the real answer can possibly emerge.
It will emerge the more we search for the authentic identity in us, the more we ask not just who am I, but also, why am I here?
Imagine the paradigm shift this will create in your awareness and acceptance of your identity, and how it will lead you to a clearer understanding of your purpose and mission.
The same process can be said now of our relationship with Jesus. At a certain point in the relationship, there will be an “anomaly” that will make us aware of the need for a paradigm shift.
This is the grace this Sunday’s Gospel makes us aware of. Jesus himself invites us to this paradigm shift.
He does this with such deep respect for our journey and freedom. He asks us the questions. “Who do people say that I am?” This makes us remember. We take stock of the journey of our faith, our relationship with Jesus as others have helped us develop.
“But who do you say that I am?” It’s the important paradigm shift question, the pivot question. Jesus himself asks us to make him our personal Lord and Savior.
He asks us. He does not impose. He leaves us free to answer the question and to decide—or discover—the quality of our relationship with him.
At this time of the pandemic, nearing our sixth month, perhaps this is an important question we need to ponder and answer.
The new normal is here. It is no longer a future event waiting for a vaccine. This is it. This is the context from which we will start to rebuild, to recreate our world.
Central to this is our response to the question, “Who do you say that I am?” It is who Jesus is to us in a personal way that will determine how we are to live out our mission as his companions, as his co-creators in this new earth and new heaven. —CONTRIBUTED