(Vatican Radio) Jesus is known more by following Him than by studying Him. That was the message of Pope Francis at his homily during the Mass celebrated Thursday morning at Casa Santa Marta. Every day, he explained, Christ asks “who” He is for us, but it is only possible to answer by living as disciples.
It is the life of a disciple, more than a life of study, that allows a Christian to really know who Jesus is for him. A journey in the footsteps of the Master, where clear witness and even betrayals, falls and new impulses, can intersect. But it is not only an intellectual approach. Pope Francis took the example of Peter, who in the Gospel of the day portrays at the same time both as a “courageous” witness — who responded to Jesus’ question to the Apostles, “Who do you say I am for you?” by saying, “You are the Christ” — and immediately afterwards as an adversary, when he feels he has to reproach Jesus, who had just announced that he had to suffer and die, and then to rise. “Many times,” the Pope said, “Jesus turns to us and asks us: “But who am I for you?” and getting “the same response that Peter gave, the one we learned in the catechism.” But that is not enough:
“It seems that to respond to that question that we have heard in our hearts — ‘Who is Jesus for us?’ — what we have learned, what we have studied is not enough. It is important to study and to understand, but it is not enough. To know Jesus it is necessary to take the journey that Peter took: after that humiliation, Peter went forward with Jesus, he saw the miracles Jesus did, he saw his power. Then he paid the tax as Jesus had told him, he caught a fish, removed a coin, he saw many miracles like that. But, at a certain point, Peter denied Jesus, he betrayed Jesus, and he learned that most difficult knowledge — more than knowledge, wisdom — of tears, of weeping.”
Peter, Pope Francis continued, asks forgiveness from Jesus — and yet, after the Resurrection, he is questioned three times by Jesus on the beach of Tiberias: “Do you love me?” Probably, the Pope said, in his reaffirming his total love for his Master, he wept, and was ashamed at the memory of his triple denial:
“This first question for Peter — ‘Who am I for you?’ — can only be understood along a path, after a long path, a path of grace and of sin, a path of a disciple. Jesus did not say to Peter and to His Apostles “Know me”; He said, “Follow me!” And this following of Jesus makes us know Jesus. Following Jesus with our strength, but also with our sins, but always following Jesus. It is not a study of things that is necessary, but a life of a disciple.”
It takes “a daily encounter with the Lord, every day, with our triumphs and our weaknesses.” But, the Pope added, it is “a journey that we can’t make on our own.” The intervention of the Holy Spirit is necessary:
“To know Jesus is a gift of the Father; it is He who makes us know Jesus. It is a work of the Holy Spirit, who is a great worker. Not a trade unionist — He is a great worker and He works in us always. He does this work of explaining the mystery of Jesus, and of giving us this sense of Jesus. We look at Jesus, Peter, the Apostles, and we hear in our hearts the question: ‘Who am I for you?’ And as disciples let us ask the Father that He would grant to us to know Christ in the Holy Spirit, that He would explain this mystery.”