21st Sun OT Yr A (2017)
Ss. Peter & Paul - Danville
Can I trust you? Do you love me? Will you marry me? Some questions have the power to quite literally change our lives forever. These are different than the questions we typically swim around in every day: “Do you want fries with that?” The questions that take most of our time and attention are often the least important questions: Regular or decaf? Today or tomorrow? Walking Dead or Game of Thrones? Most of our time is spent asking and answering questions that don’t really matter in the long run. But in every life there are supremely important moments when the big questions arise – questions that have the power to change us, define us – questions that will set our lives on a different course…
Who do you say that I am?
What’s the difference between these kinds of questions? That seems important doesn’t it? Regular or decaf doesn’t change who I am or set a destiny for my life. But – whether I go to college or the seminary – whether I go to the convent or stay in the world – whether I love Betty, whether I trust my brother, whether I commit myself ‘until death do us part’ to Barney – the answers to these questions become part of who we are, who we commit ourselves to be, and become self-accepted guides and definitions on our beliefs and actions, on our attitudes and futures – these questions are less about information and more about identity.
Who do people say the Son of Man is? It’s an interesting question. But it’s not really an important question, is it? At least not on the order of having any significant meaning in my life. That’s a question that might be answered exactly the same way by a Jew, Bhuddist, Muslim, or Athiest. That question could have been equally answered by the Pharisees, Pontius Pilate, or St. Peter. It lives completely in the realm of knowledge. But there’s no lasting consequence – for anyone – in asking or answering that question, is there?
If that’s the only question we’ve answered about Jesus, we can be stuck living a life of pseudo-faith on the level of knowledge, which gives us plenty of room to dodge and weave when push comes to shove; worse, it leaves us without a solid foundation in relationship with the One who loves us most perfectly and wants only to bring us to happiness.
Jesus doesn’t seem to be so interested in that question. Yeah, yeah – OK – great – that’s why they think…but…who do you say that I am? The answer to that question has the power to change us, to define our lives. It has the power to bring us into relationship with Jesus Himself.
Look at me a moment – give me your eyes – open your heart and let me ask you… “Who do you say that Jesus is?” In the way you live your life, in the way you carry your crosses – who do you say that Jesus is? Some teacher who had some good things to say but not much more? That’s not worth giving my life to…that’s not worth basing who I am and how I am in this world upon.
But everything changes if you answer that question like Peter did. Who do you say that Jesus is? “You are the Christ, the Anointed One spoken of throughout all human history and in the scriptures; You are the only Son of the Living God!’ That changes things! That changes us! It changes everything about us! You see – if Jesus is God Himself, the Only Begotten Son, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, if you say that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, that He is your Savior – then your life will be lived differently.
Jesus is only your Savior if you bring Him your sins, over and over again in the confessional – otherwise you’re telling me who others say He is. Jesus is only your Savior if you let Him save you.
Jesus is only the perfect Lamb of God who sacrifices Himself for us at each and every Mass – as He said He was – Jesus is only the Lamb of God if, when He becomes present on this altar you draw all of your heart and mind to Him and worship Him. Think about our Sign of Peace…I’m always amazed that it sounds like an intermission – chatting, laughter, all the focus to the left or the right or behind…hardly a glance or a notice of the altar at all. As if we’re completely overlooking the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ Himself right here in our midst! It’s like we become so focused on chatting and greeting and catching up with our neighbor, who Jesus is, that He is present among us in the Blessed Sacrament – it just falls by the wayside. Who do you say that Jesus is? If He is the Lamb of God, you offer a genuine expression of the peace you share in Christ with one another but you offer it to Him keeping your heart and soul focused on the altar exchanging peace with your neighbor as a sign to Him that you know He is the source of the peace we build in this community. Who do you say that the Son of Man is?
Who do you say the Son of Man is? Lord of my life? Then what I do with my life and my future isn’t fundamentally a decision that I make based on what I want to do. No – if Jesus Christ is the Lord of Lords – if that’s who you say that He is, then your only desire in life is to know what He wants for you, knowing that His desire holds the key to your greatest happiness. And rather than exercising your preference (reducing your life’s vocation to a choice between French Fries or Onion Rings), you’re instead all in praying with all your heart and soul, “Here am I Lord – I come to do Your will – Send me – Wherever You want me to go…whatever you want me to be…send me and I’ll go!”
Some questions are general and report knowledge and have no real baring on our lives – who do people say the Son of Man is? Some questions require us to search deep within ourselves, and when we give our answer they become part of creating us, they define us and change the shape of the rest of our lives: who do you say that I am. That’s what Jesus asks you today – what’s your answer – who do you say Jesus is?