Who do you say that I am?
FR. TOM'S HOMILY FOR THE 24th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, September 12, 2021:
One day Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson were on a camping trip. As they lay sleeping, Holmes woke Watson and said, “Look up into the sky and tell me what you see.” Watson said, “I see millions of stars which tells me, astronomically, that there are millions of galaxies and billions of planets. Theologically, it tells me that God is great and that we are small in comparison. Meteorologically, it tells me that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. And what does it tell you Holmes?” To which Holmes answered, “It tells me that someone stole our tent.”
A simple question can elicit very different answers. In our Gospel today, Jesus asks a simple question, “Who do you say that I am?” Up to this point there have been many answers. They have said, “Who is this that even wind and sea obey him?” They said, “Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary?” They said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead,” or “He is Elijah.” They have had many answers.
But, up until now, they haven’t quite gotten a handle on just who Jesus really is. Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?” and when Peter answers, “You are the Christ,” they finally get it! They see Jesus as He is. “You are the Christ.” And this question of who Jesus is reflects right back to us today because understanding who Jesus is, also tells us who we are. Jesus asks, “Who do people say that I am?” because what He really wants to get at is – once you know who I am, who are you? What are you about? His words are not academic or theological, they are relational and loving. And, today they are meant for us to think about who Jesus is and in turn, who are we and what are we about as people who follow Him?
The point is that recognizing who Jesus is – “You are the Christ” – must have consequences to who we are and how we live and how we view the rest of the world. Everything in our lives flows from that recognition of who Jesus is for us. It calls us to spread our faith; to live a life of love and joy, compassion and caring – to a degree that the world has never seen before; to not do just “enough” but to do the extraordinary – in and with and through Christ!
Mark told us today that Jesus asked His question in Ceasarea Philippi; a city marked by devotion to false gods. It is there that Jesus asks His most important question. He asks, who do you say that I am, in the midst of a place that worships everything except the One True God. It is there that He says now is the time to make a choice. In the midst of all of these competing things; these competing gods and idols – who will you say that I am? And who will you choose to be because of Me?
This question of our identity as followers of Jesus, and as His church, could not be more important than it is right now. As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attack, just think of the ways that moment caused us to say, “Who are we as Americans?” That was a defining moment; a moment that invited us into two options – vengeance or justice; hatred or love. And we reflect on the ways that we have responded – both the good ways and the bad – Jesus asks the question again – who do you say that I am? Pope Francis said, “Life speaks louder than words. The person who witnesses to hope does not indicate what hope is, but who hope is. Christ is our hope.”
My friends, as we seek to lead lives of holiness, Jesus asks us the same old question: who do you say that I am? I pray that our response will be generous and courageous, that it will be compassionate and prophetic. Generous in showing love to everyone. Courageous in standing up for justice everywhere. That it will be compassionate in the way we deal with those who have been wounded by our world. That we will be prophetic in our proclamation of the Gospel so that the world will know clearly who we are as followers of Jesus, and what we stand for. I pray that our answer will lead us to roll up our sleeves and fight for what we believe in, fight for who we are because of our faith in Jesus, fight for the church – from the Pope to us in the pews – to be true to who we say we are, by what we say and do.
Lord Jesus, you are the Christ, the One who has come to save the world. Let us be true to Your word, true to Your Gospel, so that all who see us will see You. Renew us today in Your love. Renew us today in Your mission. Renew us today, Lord, in Your word, so that what we say and what we do reflect only You and Your love for the world. May Jesus strengthen us so that our lives will speak louder than our words. Who do you say that I am? You, Lord, are the Christ; and I Lord, am Your disciple.
May the Lord give you peace.
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