Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Who do I say that Jesus is?

"Who do the crowds say that I am?" Jesus’ disciples had been with him for a while and had watched and listened as Jesus taught the crowds and responded to attacks. Their first responses to Jesus were drawn from what they had observed and heard others say.  They responded that Jesus was John the Baptist, or Elijah, or an ancient prophet.  As we know, these answers, which were the popular opinions of the time, were all wrong.

Then Jesus fine-tuned his question and asked, "But who do you say that I am?" The question required the disciples to go within, to draw upon their experiences with Jesus and come to their own conclusion. Peter responds: "The Christ of God." 
Just as Jesus asked this question of the apostles, he repeatedly asks this question of each one of us.  Initially, most of us might give a quick answer.  We would say: “You are Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”     Then, Jesus would peer deep into our heart and ask us one more time:  “Who do you say that I am?”  Then, we realize that he is asking us to answer his question not based upon our mind but upon our lives, our actions. 
Do our lives reflect the fact that we know Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God?  This is a difficult question for us as it was for the apostles.  It’s one thing to know Jesus as a great prophet.  It’s quite another to know him as the son of the creator of the universe, the son of God who became man.  We can choose to follow the direction of a prophet or we can ignore him.  But, when the son of God speaks, we had better listen. 
The last two Friday’s, Father John Patterson said mass here and I was on the altar to help him.  Father John graduated from St Francis De Sales grade school in 1984 and then attended Fenwick.  He has cerebral palsy which makes it very difficult for him to walk.  In fact, he normally has to lean on someone to get from one place to another.  But when Father John talks, it’s like listening to Jesus.  During Friday morning’s homily, he commented that leaning on someone’s shoulder when he goes from one place to another is a blessing for him because he feels like he is getting helped by Jesus.  Friday, I was Jesus for Father John as I helped him get around the altar. It was a great blessing for me.  And I know that Father John’s words were a blessing for all those present.    
Our thoughts and our actions say more about who Jesus is for us than our words do.  Hopefully, our actions in this area reflect Jesus such that others know, when they are around us, that we are his followers.  Father John Patterson is Christ-like to his very core.  He knows Christ to such a great extent that when you are in his presence, you feel like you are close to Jesus.
What about us?  Most of us are struggling on our journey to get to know Jesus.  We may know that he is the Messiah, but our lives may not reflect that knowledge.  What can we do to get to know him better?
First of all, we can avoid doing things which will distance ourselves from him.  Whenever we sin, we are separating ourselves from the love of God.  For example, if we use the name of the Lord in vain, by our very words, we are mocking the Lord.  How can we confidently say that we know Jesus as the Son of God, when we use his name in vain?
Secondly, we can get to know Jesus by receiving him in Holy Communion.  In Holy Communion, we receive Jesus body, blood, soul, and divinity.  The principal fruit of receiving Holy Communion is an intimate union with Jesus.  Of course, it is important that we be in the state of grace when we receive him.  If we believe that Jesus is the Messiah, we certainly don’t want to be in serious sin when we receive him in Holy Communion.  So, if you are in the state of serious sin, go to confession before receiving Holy Communion.
Next, we get to know Jesus through Scripture.  We have three Scripture readings each Sunday at Mass and these readings repeat every three years.  If you attend Mass every Sunday, over the course of this three year cycle, you will have heard over half of the bible.   If you also attend mass every day for the two year cycle of daily masses, between the Sunday and daily readings, you will have heard about 90% of the bible.  And after hearing these Scripture readings, we should reflect upon them and apply them to our lives.
Finally, Christ has revealed himself to us through his Church.  There is an intimate bond between Christ and his Church.  Not only is she gathered around Him, she is united with Him.  The Church is the Body of Christ in the unity of her members with each other, especially in receiving His body.  Christ is the Head of the Church.  And the Church is the bride of Christ.

Who do you say that I am?  As we reflect upon this question today, let us resolve to get to know Jesus better, through Scripture, through receiving him in Holy Communion, and through his Church.  Then, maybe someone will tell us that our lives image the love of Jesus.