Many have reflected on the importance of this question both for the disciples, and for ourselves. We might do well to think about it ourselves on occasion. But as I was preparing for today's Liturgy, an aspect of that question stood out in a way that it hasn't before.
Certainly, it's an important question, and it called for a statement of faith from Peter. His faith was well-placed and well-articulated. So well, in fact, that Jesus gave Peter the all-important keys to the kingdom, and the power to bind and loose sins. This power has been appropriated to the Church through apostolic succession. So when you receive absolution in sacramental confession, it is because of Peter's faith that you receive it. That's a beautiful thing, I think, because it connects us to Jesus through the apostles as handed down through the Church.
But here's the thing that stood out for me last night: it wasn't so much what Peter and the apostles said about who Jesus was that constituted their statement of faith, and their answer to Jesus' question. The answer really came from the way they lived their lives.
Peter was, as Scripture shows us, an impulsive man. He often said and did the wrong thing, but just as often said and did the right thing. One minute he was walking on water, the next minute he was overcome by the wind and waves. Today he's professing his faith in Jesus, but a few verses later and Jesus is telling him to get behind him. He's nowhere to be found at the Cross, having denied his Master three times, but later professes his love for Jesus and accepts the responsibility to feed his sheep. But though it all, he was a man of conversion, and finally gave his life for Christ, suffering martyrdom under Nero in about the year 64.
Paul, as we know, was a Jew, and a strict one. He went so far as to persecute Christians for their faith, and even took part in the martyrdom of St. Stephen. But Paul, too, was a man of conversion and completely changed his life on the way to Damascus, becoming a great apostle, theologian, and missionary. He, too, was martyred, ending his life in Rome.
Both of these great apostles answered the question "Who do you say that I am?" by living lives of conversion, following Christ, and laying down their lives for Christ. They are examples to all of us, who also are asked to answer the question "Who do you say that I am?" So how have we been answering that question? What answer do our lives give?