The Christ of God
In the First Reading, the prophet announces that in the messianic age God will provide a fountain to purify from sin. We are in that messianic age, and everyone of us could use that fountain. Where is it?
The answer lies in the Gospel Reading.
In that Reading, Jesus questions his disciples: who do the crowds say that I am?
Why does he ask them this? Surely, he can’t be looking for information. He knows so many things that ordinary human beings can’t know. He doesn’t need his disciples to tell him the opinion of a crowd! And, anyway, how could it be that his disciples would know what the crowd is saying and Jesus wouldn’t? They are all there in the crowd together.
So it makes more sense to suppose that Jesus asks his disciples what the crowd says in order to start the disciples on the road to the right answer to the second question, the question that he asks them after they answer the first question: Who do you say that I am?
Why does he ask them this second question? He can’t be looking for information here either, can he? He has a very good idea of what his disciples think! The ones who aren’t sure what the disciples think about Jesus are the disciples themselves, not Jesus.
When Peter considers how to answer Jesus’ question, he finds in himself the resources for this stunning conclusion: “You are the Christ of God!”
And that is the right answer, which the questions of Jesus have helped them all to see. Jesus asks his questions in order to help his disciples find that answer in themselves. Jesus is the Christ of God, the one God has anointed to be the savior for all people.
And what does Jesus save people from if not their sins?
So the answer to the question I asked at the outset lies in Peter’s answer to Jesus’ question. The fountain purifying people from their sins is Jesus himself.
And that is why it is crucial to find the answer to the question Jesus asks: Who do you say that I am? Only if you give the answer Peter did will you find the fountain purifying people from sin. Only if you come to Jesus, as you are, sinful and sorrowful, will you find that fountain’s waters for yourself.
Eleonore Stump is Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University
**From Saint Louis University