In the Lectionary

August 27, Ordinary 21A (Matthew 16:13–20)

I find it comforting to realize that Jesus recognizes the incompleteness of Peter’s understanding.

I recently celebrated my 59th birthday during an especially debilitating flare-up of multiple sclerosis, my unwelcome companion of three decades. Though I can still take my daily beach walks with my dingo, I now use a cane to propel myself through the sand. And I find myself musing on questions that haven’t plagued me since my late adolescence: Who am I? What is my purpose in life? What do I have to offer the world with my unique set of limitations? Where do I fit in to this world?

It’s an age-old human question, honed to obsession in the 21st century: Who am I? But though it permeates our culture now, we don’t have a monopoly on the question. For proof of the importance of identity, look no further than the genealogy that launches the Gospel of Matthew, where the writer lays out a historical resume to prove Jesus’ identity. Then, as now, questions of identity and belonging are essential.

When Jesus asks his disciples the divinely existential question of who the people and then the disciples think he is, his essential question is also all about identity—Jesus’ identity, Peter’s identity, and ultimately our identity as Christians.