Pope Francis addressed a fundamental question in his remarks on September 16, 2018, before praying the noonday Angelus with a crowd of some 35,000 pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square. “Who is Jesus?”
Of course, Peter gives the right answer: “You are the Christ.” But within a few moments of conversation, Jesus tells Peter: “Get behind me, Satan!”
But the Pope explains that before asking who the disciples say he is, Jesus first asks who others say he is.
“It emerges that the people consider Jesus a great prophet,” the Pope said. “But, in reality, He isn’t interested in people’s opinion polls and gossip. He isn’t interested either in His disciples responding to His questions with ready-made formulas, quoting famous personalities of Sacred Scriptures, because a faith that is reduced to formulas is a myopic faith.”
Jesus, the Pope explains, doesn’t want the disciples to be concerned with who others say he is, but to experience a personal relationship with him and receive him at the center of their life. So when Jesus answers with such conviction, Jesus explains some difficult reality to him.
“However, when Jesus says clearly to us what He said to the disciples, namely, that His mission is carried out not on the wide path of success, but on the arduous pathway of the suffering Servant, humiliated, rejected and crucified, then it can happen to us also, as to Peter, to protest and rebel because this is opposed to our expectations. In those moments, we also deserve Jesus’ salutary rebuke: ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men’ (v. 33),” the Pope said.
Francis reminded the faithful that following Christ means denying oneself, letting go of “egoistic pride” and taking up the cross. It demands following a fundamental rule: “Whoever would save his life will lose it.”
“Often in life, for many reasons, we mistake the way, seeking happiness only in things, or in persons that we treat as things,” Francis concluded. “However, we only find happiness when true love encounters us, surprises us and changes us. Love changes everything! And love can also change us, each one of us. The testimonies of the Saints demonstrate it.”