‘The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward...” — Isaiah 50:5

Jesus asks us all a question in Sunday’s Gospel (Mk 8:27-35): “Who do people say that I am?” Before we answer, let us ask ourselves another question: “Who do we say we are?” How we answer will help us understand who we say Jesus is in our lives.

We define ourselves in varied and complicated ways. Men often define themselves by the work they do; a man’s career may define who he is for other people, and men may not see themselves as successful if their careers are not going well. Many men do not define success by their families or relationships.

Women, on the other hand, most often answer the question of “who people say that I am” by reflecting on their relationships with their families and friends. Success is measured by healthy and strong family ties and friendships.

Who we say that we are depends on whether we define ourselves by our work or by our relationships. In each of the Scriptures for this Sunday, Jesus defines Himself by His relationships and His mission. He asks His disciples, “‘Who do people say that I am?’

“They said in reply, ‘John the Baptist,’ others ‘Elijah,’ still others ‘one of the prophets.’ And He asked them, ‘But, who do you say that I am?’ Peter said to him in reply, ‘You are the Christ.’”

The answer to the question, “Who do people say that I am,” comes from Jesus. He reveals who He is by His ministry, and His ministry reveals His relationship with God.

In last week’s Gospel (Mk 7:31-37), Jesus healed a man who was deaf. The healing was a sign of God’s re-creative presence in the person of Jesus Christ. Only God can make the deaf hear and the mute speak. Following Peter’s answer, Jesus gives a passion prediction to the disciples and, in doing so, He uses one of the titles of the Messianic age.

Jesus says, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.” Revealing that He is the Son of Man defines what He will do, and what He does helps us understand his relationship with God.

The Son of Man is mentioned in the book of the prophet Ezekiel and the book of Daniel. Ezekiel 2 says, “The Son of Man comes to judge the world.” Ezekiel himself is referred to as the Son of Man, for he comes with the judgment of God for the people of Israel. In Daniel 7, the Son of Man is described as “one who will come down on the clouds of glory.”

The first reading (Is 50:4-9) reveals the title of “suffering servant,” the one who will bring about salvation through taking on our sins. Jesus is that suffering servant. Only God can forgive sin, and the fact that the suffering servant who is Jesus Christ accomplishes this means He is God.

The relationship and mission define who Jesus is for us. In the Gospel, Jesus gave the prediction that He would suffer and die, and rise again; when Peter rebuked Him, Peter was interfering in the relationship of the Father and the Son and becoming an obstacle to Jesus’ mission.

“[Jesus] rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as humans beings do.’” The Scriptures ask us to consider if we get in the way of the mission of Jesus because we do not proclaim our relationship with him.

The titles of Jesus define our relationship with him: Jesus as the Christ, the anointed one of God; as the Son of Man who comes to judge the world; and as the suffering servant who brings about our salvation through His passion. Psalm 116 helps us understand what the passion of our Lord will accomplish: our salvation. Only Christ can bring this about.

Just as Jesus’ titles define the relationship, His mission defines whether our lives are lived in Christ. James (2:14-18) says we reject the relationship we share with Jesus when we reject His works: “If someone says he has faith but does not have works, can that faith save him?”

Who we say Jesus is also tells others who we are, by our relationship with others through the works we do in the name of Jesus Christ. So, who are you?