Who do you say that I am? A little over fifteen years ago I was ordained a deacon, so most people here at church call me deacon now. It’s an easy first name to remember. It is sort of like Msgr for Msgr Tosti or Father for Fr. Healey. In fact a lot of people call me Father too. I usually can tell who are the visitors as they leave Mass during the summer and say to me “Have a nice week father”. Even at the hospital people call me father when I say I am a Catholic chaplain. I love being able to respond “Yes, I am a father, but I also am a grandfather”.
So what is in a name? It is interesting that people call you different names depending on when you met them. It says a lot about who you are at various stages in your life. Most of my friends call me Greg. My sister calls me Gregory John John. I wanted to choose Gregory for my Confirmation name but they wouldn’t let me chose my given name at that time so being a little rebellious I chose my second name for my confirmation name. Thus Gregory John John. I’m not sure I like that but I also have a couple of names for her so we’re even.
Being in the military for 27 years I acquired several names starting with Lieutenant. Now, even though I’ve been retired for over twenty years, most of the people who worked with me still call me Colonel Beckel. One name that I was given was sort of interesting. My call sign was “The Deacon”. That was 20 years before I became a deacon but that is a story for another time.
The many names I’ve acquired say a lot about me. I've been called son, or dad, or Mr. Beckel. Some of my children’s friends who have know me all of their lives and now have children of their own and they still call me Mr. Beckel. My wife often calls me honey or dear. That’s when I’ve been good. Sometimes I feel like I don’t deserve those terms of endearment, but I keep trying to live up to them.
We all like to know what people think of us and often we can tell what people think by the names they address us with. In today’s Gospel, Jesus is sort of wondering the same thing. He asks his disciples “Who do people say the son of man is?”
So far in Jesus’ ministry, he had taught in the temple and astounded the teachers at His understanding of the scriptures. He had performed many miracles, driven out demons, healed the sick, fed 5,000 people with a few loaves and fishes, taught about the love of God in the many parables he used. In response to John the Baptist’s disciples when they asked “Are you the one” He responded “Go tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” Jesus was clearly someone sent by God to do His works, so the answer the apostles gave was “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” It was obvious the people held Jesus in high esteem. Identifying Jesus with Elijah and Jeremiah they were paying him a great tribute and placing him in a high place.
Then Jesus asked a more penetrating question, one we all might ponder. He says, “And you, who do you say that I am?” At that question, there may have been a moment of silence and maybe embarrassment where the disciples were almost afraid to answer. How do you answer that question? I think at that point, Peter came to a great realization. He said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Peter became the rock, the first person on earth to realize and acknowledge who Jesus was. He was literally the first member of the Church, the beginning of each and every one of us here today. We all are disciples of the Lord.
Despite all of his frailties, all of his doubts, all of his denials, all of his weaknesses, Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven. It is this community of faith, the Catholic Church, that began with Peter and his companions and continues to this day. Every time we celebrate the Eucharist, Jesus asks each and every one of us in the consecration, “Who do you say that I am?”
My response is “My Lord and My God!”
What is yours?
Deacon Greg Beckel