THE POWER OF IDENTITY REFLECTION FOR THE 24TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Identity test: Explore your identity - PsychMechanics

There is one facility you have which you can never share with anyone! Guess? It is your fingerprint. Among the 7.79 billion people in the world, no two individuals share the same fingerprint even the most identical twins in the world who share the same husband, Lucy, and Anna Decinque, have contrasting fingerprints.

We often go through life identifying ourselves and being identified. We all need some form of identification to function effectively in our contemporary world. Before you board an airplane, for instance, you need to present identification. You also need a valid license to identify yourself as a driver regardless of your years of driving.

You may not have access to certain places and things without some form of identification. Notice that your computer sometimes asks you to prove that you are human and not a robot through the captcha, especially when completing sensitive forms.

In the Gospel of Mark (8:27-35), we see our Lord Jesus Christ conducting field research about his identity while using his disciples as respondents. “Who do people say I am” was the question. The disciples responded by giving some popular opinions about Jesus that see him as John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the prophets.

Bringing the question home to the apostles, Jesus asked disciples, “who do say I am?” Peter responding says, “You are the Christ.” From the account of Matthew (17:17), Jesus would commend Peter for the response but would ascribe it to divine revelation.

The Christ Identity

Peter’s answer was apt. There were many “Jesuses” before, after and during the earthly life of the Son of Mary, but only one is and can only be the Christ. The realization of this characterization prods us to want to know the significance of Christ’s identity!

Christ (chrīstós) is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Messiah which means “the anointed one.” Now the Messiah (anointed one) is the one that would bring divine salvation (Daniel 9:25-27); so, he is the savior, which aligns with the Hebrew Yeshu’a rendered in Greek as Jesus.

After Peter confessed the identity of Christ, Jesus began to teach them openly about the fate of Christ, which includes severe suffering and death but not excluding resurrection on the third day.

Peter, who had earlier confessed the identity of the Christ, reacted to the teaching of Christ by rebuking him privately for talking about suffering and death. However, he did not mention the resurrection on the third day.  Jesus responded again openly by saying, “Get behind me, Satan, you think not as God does, but as human beings do.”

We have so much to learn from the episode. Jesus was teaching publicly about the mission of Christ; the devil comes privately to discourage him. This is our story. We often make public promises and declarations, but in the privacy of our minds, the enemy comes to discourage us from keeping them.

Peter declared Jesus the Christ but, the devil working through the same individual, Peter, tries to stop Jesus from accomplishing the mission of the Christ. So the quick lesson for us here is that the devil could speak from even the best of us.

We need to be as discerning as Jesus to know when “Peter” speaks and when Satan is manipulating. Furthermore, receiving revelation from God today would not stop Satan from coming to us tomorrow with suggestions. St. Paul says, “if you think you are standing, watch out lest you fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).

Moving Forward: Identifying with the Christ!

In the communication that followed, our Lord Jesus Christ took the time to explain what it means to be a follower of His. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” This is not a suggestion but a meaningful obligation.

The cross is our Christian identity as well as our instrument of victory. Though it may be discomforting and weighty now, there is a crown waiting at the end of the journey of the cross. So, see the cross you are carrying now as your way of identifying with Christ, who went the way of the cross to save us.

Do not reject the cross that comes your way; they don’t come to stay; rather, they come only for a season. Indeed, God cannot give you the cross you cannot carry; they will not break you, but rather they would remake you. Therefore, Christianity without the cross is a child’s play.

Note finally that one way of making our faith actionable, according to the instruction of St. James (2:14-18), is to take up our cross after our Lord Jesus Christ. To be a Christian is to be like Christ. Isaiah (50:4c-9a) says, among other things, that help would come from the Lord after trials that we face. Therefore, let us always live by our Christian identity.

God bless you!

Fr. Bonnie.

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