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Who do people say I am?

According to Plato at his trial the Greek philosopher Socrates (d. 399 BC) said “the unexamined life is not worth living.” To put this in question form we might ask things like “Who am I?” “What is my purpose or goal in life?” “Have I lived a worth-while life?” Jesus asks the Apostles a similar question: “Who do people say that I am?” It is a good question for us to ask ourselves: “Who do people say that you are?”

For many people, the person people encounter and the person we know we feel we are in our hearts may not be the same. Also, for many people the person they are and the person they would like to be may not be the same. For one reason or another we fail to live the life, or be the person, we hope to be, were created to be, or have the potential to be. And, many of us settle for that because it’s easier to just go along, or opt out, or be someone else, than it is to live up to the potential we have, or be the person we should be. In the end, our life is not just unreflective, it can be wasted. Worse still, we may just be who others think we should be, say what others want to hear, or pretend to be who others want us to be.

“Who am I?” “Who should I be?” Are good questions. Reflecting on them and the difference between “who I am now” and “who I should be” or “how I live now” and “how I should live” gives us a direction for growth in life. If God created us to be a gift and sent us into the world for a purpose, well then, it is important that we be the person God created us to be and live the life God created us to live. If we fail to do so who will do what we should have done? Who will be who we should have been?

Of course, you might say to me, Fr. Ben, it is too late, too much water under the bridge, can’t teach an old dog new tricks, I’m German! Whatever! Nobody failed as much or as outrageously as St. Peter. Let’s face it, the first Pope, knew what it meant to fail. He didn’t fail once or twice he failed many times in many ways. Maybe, that’s why Jesus chose Peter, because, in Peter we can all see ourselves, our weakness and our failure. And if the Pope can fail – why not me? However, Peter didn’t let failure become an excuse. We all stumble, we all fall, we all fail, but we don’t let failure define who we are! Peter had the courage, tenacity, and sheer bloody mindedness to get up off his papal seat and he became the “rock” Jesus knew he could be. Thank God! Because Peter’s willingness to keep trying, made all the difference for the success of the Church and the Mission of Jesus.

Just so we are clear here: We have the same mission as Peter – a mission we receive from Jesus to build the Kingdom of God. So, it’s important that we at least keep trying. Failure is never acceptable as an excuse. We should not be defined by failure, we should be defined by courage. Who do people say you are?


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