The play, Man of La Mancha, is based on the story of Don Quixote. Don Quixote falls for Aldonsa even though she is a prostitute. He begins to woo her with words in an attempt to win her over and refers to her as Dulcinea, “my sweet little one” and My Lady. However, given her hard life, she cannot take such sweet words and eventually becomes angry with him. I was born in a ditch. I have no idea who my father is. I’ve spent most of my life working on my back. She concludes by saying to him, “Blows and abuse I can take and give back again, but tenderness I cannot bear. I’m just a whore.” In God’s eyes, her own eyes, and the eyes of the world around her she thought she knew exactly who she was, a whore.
In our Gospel reading today, Jesus takes the twelve off by themselves to Caesarea Philippi. There he asks them a few questions. First, “Who do the people say that I am?” The apostles give him a few answers: John the Baptist, Elijah, or a prophet like Jeremiah. But then Jesus makes the question a bit more personal, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Simon Peter got the gold star that day. He answered the question perfectly and the answer was not one that he could have known himself, but one that was revealed to him by God; however, Peter also could not have known that answer unless he first knew himself. Why? Because you can’t know Jesus as the Messiah, the Savior, unless you know yourself as a sinner – one in need of saving.
Peter, he knew the history of his people as well as his own. Like all those that had gone before him, he was unable to remain holy in the eyes of God. He may not have said, “I am just a whore,” but I suspect that he might have said something close to it and it was only in knowing himself that he knew he needed a savior, and was able to recognize that Savior in Jesus Christ.
When Aldonsa declared to Don Quixote, “I am just a whore,” he responded to her, “The past is over and done. We all stumble on the way to maturity. We all look for love in the wrong arms, happiness in the wrong places. But out of it, you’ve become real. You’ve got a heart of immense compassion for the brokenness of others. You are utterly incapable of hypocrisy and I am deeply in love with you.” Silence follows and finally Aldonsa answers, “From this day forward my name is no longer Aldonsa. I am Dulcinea,” My Lady.
We come before God and say to him, “I am a sinner.. a tax collector.. a whore.. a ___.” We know what we are, and in our confession, Jesus responds to us, “The past is over and done. We all stumble on the way. You are My Father’s child and I am deeply in love with you.” It is in recognizing who we are that, from that day forward, we can say to him, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” and know in our hearts that we are free. Free to love and be loved by God.
Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?” With all faith we can answer, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. You are my Savior.” Jesus responds, “My child. My beloved.”