September 16, 2018
24th Sunday Ordinary Time
“And he asked them, ‘but who do you say that I am?’”
(from Matthew 8:27-35)
Who do you say that I am? This gospel always reminds me of a “pop-quiz” that teachers use to check on the progress of their students. One can imagine the disciples and Jesus enjoying an evening meal, perhaps by a fire, just relaxing after a successful day of preaching and healing. In the course of a simple conversation, without warning, Jesus asks a seemingly innocent question: “Who do the people say that I am?”
Who do you say that I am? Many answers are forthcoming: “Some say John the Baptist or Elijah or a prophet!” Perhaps they were laughing as they tried to come up with all the different takes on Christ. This is still true today. People see Jesus from many angles in this world: a savior, a threat to personal liberty, a heretic, a good man, a philosopher, someone to ignore, a Good Shepherd, a friend. Although we are all called to spread the good news of who Jesus really is, Jesus is not interested in this at this moment in the gospel: rather, he zeroes in on precisely who each person present—his closest disciples, think Jesus is. How would we answer this question?
Who do you say that I am? We answer this question by how we live. For example, if I only attend church when no better offer comes along (like a sunny day at the beach or a football game), or if I habitually leave church early without a good reason, or do not pray on a regular basis, one can conclude that Jesus is not #1 in my life—that which I give priority in my life to is perhaps more of a “lord” than Christ is!
Who do you say that I am? Jesus appears in many forms besides his sacramental presence in the Eucharist. For example, the sick child, parent or spouse I am caring for, the homeless and unemployed I gave food to, the unborn that I am trying to protect in a world that seems to place little value in them. Jesus is present in the terribly persecuted Christians in Syria and other places… did I see him there?
Who do you say that I am? When I am grateful for what I like, and especially what I don’t like (at the moment) in my life, I really am saying to Jesus, you are the Lord! Jesus is looking for a few good friends that really trust him in every age. He constantly challenges us, through the circumstances of each day, to recognize by our daily choices who we are saying that Jesus really is in our lives.