This reflection is based on Luke 9:1-24.
Have you ever googled yourself? It’s scary stuff. You never know what you’ll find–or if you’ll like what you actually find. Take your pick: Which of the following would you consider the worst-case scenario?
(a) Reading the rant of someone disgruntled with you (and we all know how the illusion of anonymity emboldens netizens)
(b) Beholding the last photograph of yourself you want the world to see
(c) Finding nothing at all!
Whichever you pick, the point is: It is perilous to engage in self-googling–or, as it is sometimes called, ego-surfing. Unless you want your day ruined or your heart broken, follow the advice often dished out to celebrities: Just don’t.
But that is, in a sense, what our Lord Jesus does precisely in today’s Gospel story. He googles himself circa 1 AD: One day , Jesus interrupts his prayers to ask his disciples: “Who do the people say that I am?” He knows he may not like what he’s going to hear, but he asks the question just the same. Clearly, he doesn’t do it to feel good about himself, which is usually the reason why ego-surfers engage in what is considered the guilty pleasure of the digital age. By asking about people’s impressions of him, our Lord wants to get genuine feedback about how his ministry is going so far.
The answers he gets are far from offensive (of course, the disciples may have already filtered out the more negative impressions). According to the disciples, rumors have it that he is John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the ancient prophets. All this falls short of who he really is; only Simon Peter gets it when he proclaims: “The Christ, the Son of God!”
Our Lord doesn’t allow all the feedback to derail him from his mission. Far from ruining his day or breaking his heart, he only lets what the people have been saying about him strengthen his resolve to do what he must: go to Jerusalem and face the unimaginable–the rejection of the people and his own humiliating, painful death on the cross. This is the way of the Christ, the way of unconditional, unflinching love–even in the face of hatred and violence.
Here our Lord does not only show us his commitment to his mission, but he also teaches us how to deal with what people say. Many of us know what it’s like to be hurt by the sometimes terrible things people say about us. Unfortunately, many of us allow these rumors to get us down. Others just completely shut down in defiance, ignoring rumors altogether. Our Lord teaches us that it is sometimes helpful to find out what people are saying so that we can learn what we need to learn. However, we mustn’t be overly concerned about other people’s impressions. We mustn’t let them define us, much less derail us from what really ought to define us and our lives: The Father’s Will for us.
For what really matters–and what will ultimately make all the difference–is not what other people say, but what God says about us. Much more worthwhile than self-googling, therefore, is a daily prayer of self-examination, ending each day by asking: “What does God say about me today?”