Commentary on the Gospel of
Memorial of Saint Vincent de Paul, Priest
In today’s Gospel reading we get a glimpse of Jesus praying alone, but in the presence of His disciples. Jesus has just given the disciples bread which has been blessed and broken to distribute to the five thousand hungry searchers.
Now they are by themselves and it is attractive to imagine what was Jesus’ prayer about that would move Him to ask these same disciples about what people are saying about Him. Peter, of course, gives the up-to-the-moment response. Jesus is not a recurrence but an incarnate occurrence of the Searching God. Peter says simply, “You are the Christ of God.” This statement Peter has not learned in Disciple School, but from his experiences he has had of the inexplainable.
For various good reasons Jesus encourages His disciples not to spread this revelation to anybody else. At this point in Luke’s account, Jesus will be offering other persons the opportunity to make their own responses to His invitations. Not all will make the same response as Peter. Jesus does not convince, but invites a free affirmation of Who He is to them.
In the Spanish language there are two separate words for “to know”. One is “saber” which denotes knowing factually. A person knows data, objectively, thingly. The other word, “conocer” means to know personally, that is about the “who” and not jus the “what” of someone or something. To know an other person, not as object, but as a personal subject, means knowing, receiving, entering into the space and life-experience of the other or others.
This form, of intimacy or knowing, involves the knower’s also being known by the other, the known. Intimacy involves knowing as we are known. Peter pipes up not merely as a spectator to all the activities of Jesus, but as someone who has received himself, because of his receiving Jesus as a real human person. It is rather easy for us to reflect what answer we would give today to Jesus’ question about His identity. The more intimate reflection is who is Jesus saying we are as we become more familiar in our knowing of Him.
Peter’s declaration is not comprehensive of course and he will be learning more and more from Jesus about what His being the Christ, really means. None of us knows anyone in a demystifying way. Jesus, as each one of us, is a mystery. Peter and the other disciples will be finding out more and more Who He is as the Christ. They also will be finding out who they are as fragile followers. It is a journey of discovery, this following and knowing of Jesus. When praying we will discover the love of the Christ for us, keeps giving us our old, but renewed self. Jesus does not create a new person when attracting His disciples and followers. Peter remains Peter the fisherman. We would wish so often that we could change. What does change, by our knowing and being known, is how sacred His knowing of us actually is. The Eucharist and our personal prayer are encounters with a God Who desires to be known and loved as the Creating, knowing and loving never-ending Creator. In our receiving of the Eucharist and in our own personal prayer, the Anointed shares, distributes His sacred anointing with us and we are invited to know this personally in knowing Him as personally as we are able.