There’s a great challenge in this morning’s gospel reading (Mk 8:27-33) where Jesus asks two questions of his disciples, two questions that are similar but not matching. First he wants to know “Who do people say that I am?” which obviously refers to “the word on the street” among the crowds that have been gathering when he arrives in their territory. They give him some answers but then he asks the question that is probably more what he wants to know because it speaks to the level of their faith in him. “But,” he asks, “who do you say that I am?”
I’m interested that this gospel is linked to a text from the Letter of James (2:1-9) this morning dealing with how we judge people. James says, “For if a man with gold rings and fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person with shabby clothes also comes in, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes…have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges…?”
It’s quite easy for us sometimes when we’re asked about our faith to give the easy answer of what we’ve been taught about who Jesus the Christ is but unless our faith causes us to act in ways that manifest the depth of what we say, then we are still standing on the periphery of the crowd, interested but not willing to become a disciple. The true test of this, of course, is our willingness to treat others as we would treat Christ if he were at the event where the two people James spoke of were in the room. It actually might be hard to recognize him unless we took the time to get to know him, because he might be the one in the shabby clothes. It behooves us then to stay awake to how we treat each person that crosses our path, a worthy practice for today.