Today in the life of the church we celebrate Albert the Great, Bishop of Ratisbon and Friar who died in 1280 A.D. Albert has the distinct honor of being called, “Doctor Universalis,” or Universal Doctor because of his incredible and vast knowledge of many subjects. In his day he was one of the most learned and scholarly men alive. He cultivated extensive knowledge in every branch of learning available in his day and only played second fiddle–in terms of sheer mastery of knowledge–to Roger Bacon. And, if all of that wasn’t enough, his star pupil–and the one whom he clearly influenced the most–was none other than Thomas Aquinas whose Summa Theologica is considered by most to be the most complete compendium of all of the teachings of the Catholic Church and one of the most influential works of Western literature.
The gospel passage given to Albert the Great’s feast day comes from Matthew’s gospel, Matthew 16:13-20. In this passage Jesus asks Peter, “But who do you say that I am?” And Simon Peter responds instantly, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” In response to Peter’s recognition of Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus tells Peter that he is the rock on which Jesus will build his church, a familiar quote to many.
But, the question that Jesus asks of Simon Peter is one that could be asked of us today–the followers of Christ, we Christ-ians. Who DO we say that Jesus is? And, with parallel importance, how do we say who Jesus is to us? My guess is that this simple question isn’t one that we’ve spent much time with. With most simple questions, the answers are almost always more complex than questions themselves.
I invite us over the course of this weekend to spend some time with this simple question. Take some time to let the possible answers bubble up. Then, if you are willing, respond to this post and let us know who you know Jesus to be. My guess is that our answers will be as simple, as powerful and as inspired as Peter’s response to Jesus.