Friends, the Gospel for today is incomparably rich and mysterious. First, we notice that peculiar question, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” No other religious figure or founder would ask such a question. This is the primordial and peculiar question of the Christian faith. It has to do with Jesus and who he is.
The first group that “responds” is the general public: “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.” A range of opinions—and all of them wrong.
Then that devastating question: “But who do you say that I am?” You who are closest to me, you whom I have chosen. But the disciples don’t speak. Are they afraid? Perhaps. Are they ignorant? Probably.
Finally, Simon Peter speaks: “The Christ of God.” You are the Messiah, the anointed, the long-awaited Savior; but more to it, you are the Son of God, not just a human hero. This is the mystical faith that stands at the heart of Christianity. This is the standing or falling point. To hold this Petrine faith is to be a Christian; to deny it is not to be a Christian.