Today, Jesus asks about the names that the crowds and the disciples have for him. The names we have for people and things not only give us the power to describe them, but names help us define people and things in our lives. The names others call us, the names that we call ourselves, give us our identity and can set up boundaries for who we are and for what we do. These names can either limit us or reinforce us. Today's Gospel tells us of the high opinion that the crowds have for Jesus, how they identify him with their greatest religious leaders, in seeing Jesus as John the Baptist, or Elijah, or one of the other prophets from ancient Israel who has come back to life. Jesus wonders if those are the only names they have for him, or if there is any other way they identify him, so he rephrases the question, asking them what each one of us must answer for ourselves: “Who do you say that I am?”
Our life of discipleship, our relationship with Christ, is not occasional or part-time, it is not just attending the obligatory mass once a week and doing acts of Christian charity when they fit into our schedules. Losing our lives for his sake is our full-time calling as his disciples: it's for all of us, not just for a few specially selected martyrs or saints.
You know, the Muslim tradition has a list of 99 names of God, which they pray on a set of beads similar to our rosary beads, in which they identify the different attributes and characteristics their faith sees in God. Likewise, in Christianity, we also have so many different names that we assign to Jesus. This week, maybe we can all bring to our minds the names and images that we personally have for Christ in our lives – perhaps we can even write them down to think about them in a more tangible way. Think about what those names and images tell you about your relationship with Christ, about how you view Christ interacting in your life and with the world. What can we do to mature and grow in the images and names we have for Christ, in the way we relate to him and befriend him in our life of faith?