Readings: Ecclesiastes 3:1-11; Psalm 144; Luke 9:18-22
As so often in St Luke's gospel Jesus is at prayer before making a key decision or asking a decisive question. Here it is the familiar question, 'who do you say that I am'? Coming as it does directly from the heart of his prayer (in solitude, with the disciples) it seems that this must also have been his prayer's content. Many human beings all over the world are probably doing this right now, praying to God about their vocation: who am I? what is it you want me to do? who is it you want me to be?
In his humanity Jesus also prays about this question. The issue had arisen already in his experience of the temptations (Luke 4): in fact those temptations can be understood as pervading the whole of his public ministry, questions about who he is and what his mission is, questions he put to his disciples, having first, presumably, put them to himself and to the Father in prayer.
He seems embarrassed by the response of Peter, rebuking the disciples and commanding them to tell this to no one. 'The Christ of God' is Peter's answer but Jesus continues by speaking about 'the Son of Man who must suffer many things, be rejected, killed and be raised'. It must be that it is a matter of the right time, or, to be more precise, of the wrong time. What is the problem? He is engaged in teaching them something very delicate as he appropriates for himself the teaching he is sharing with them. What kind of Christ is he to be? When is the right time for speaking more explicitly and more publicly about the answer that is emerging? Not now, it seems, not for the moment.
Human wisdom and prudence are often seen in good timing: what to do or say can be clear, the challenge is to find the right time, the right set of circumstances, in which to say or do it. For teaching the wisdom of the cross, the hard paradoxical wisdom of the gospel, when is the time right and when are the circumstances favourable? We might say never, it will always be challenging to teach that wisdom. Or we might say 'the fulness of time' is the right time for teaching this wisdom, a kairos moment in the life of each individual, a moment of grace and understanding, when the knowledge of the cross can be received not just as reasonable and intelligible, but as desirable and infinitely wise.