“We must endeavor to have God reign sovereignly in us, and then in others. The trouble with me is that I take more care to have Him reign in others than in myself.” These words by the “Great Apostle of Charity” – St. Vincent de Paul, whose feast we celebrate today, are especially poignant when juxtaposed with today’s Gospel. Jesus asks the apostles what other people say about him, but more importantly he wants to know who the apostles think he is. Peter instinctively answers correctly that Jesus is the Christ; the Son of God; God incarnate.
As we read this passage we may recognize that a question was asked and answered – it’s good stuff, but time to move on, right? Not so fast. There is significant and immeasurable weight to Peter’s answer for those of us who have first answered the question that many people still struggle with today, “Does God exist?”
A universe with a Creator is a magnificent leap of human faith worthy of considerable existential reflection, but then we name the enfleshed Jesus as this very same entity and our notions of Creator take on ever more relational and intimate knowledge. The enormity and grandeur of this revelation should always give us pause and never escape us in our day. It is our saints, like St. Vincent de Paul, who help remind us by their lives of the responsibility we have to answer the question our Lord asks each and every one of us, “Who do you say that I am?”
St. Vincent de Paul, champion of the poor, helps us with what comes next: “Be acted upon rather than active. In this way, God will do through you alone what all men put together could not do without Him.”
—Richard Schuckman, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago