Today’s Gospel contains a critically important question which Jesus asked of His disciples … and He asks the same question of us. ‘Who do you say I am?’ If our response is that He is someone we are prepared to follow, Jesus leaves us in no doubt as to what that would imply.
When we examine this question carefully, it seems that Jesus is not particularly interested in the general reply, because He goes right to the core and asks, ‘And you; who do YOU say I am?’
Our identity comes to us as we grow in life and experience….as a little kid, we become aware of our Mum and Dad and sisters and brothers right from the beginning of our awareness, but we don’t know who they really are as distinct persons until we continue to grow in our wider awareness. In some cultures of the world, a baby is not given their name until its character starts fitting a picture as to who they are….In my round us Anglo-Celtic culture we mostly pass down a name, taken either from the first, second or third name, of previous generations in our name line. Then, as time goes on, we mostly get given ‘nicknames’ which are often closer to the mark as to who we are! In Religious Life……going back 45 or 50 years ago, at the time of being clothed in the Habit and commencing our Novitiate, we sometimes took a Religious name, and in the Order or Congregation, that replaced our Baptismal name. Sometimes, if you were unlucky, the Novice Master or Mistress, would give you a name that you had not picked! Them, were the days!!!!!
For us Passionists, we took a Devotional name, and in my day, we didn’t have to take Religious names but stayed with our Baptismal name. Thankfully! The choosing of a Devotional name was important in those days, and still is for me! My name in Religion is Kevin of St.Joseph the worker. St.Joseph is a family devotion, but I was keen on the hidden side of St. Joseph’s life, and him being a Carpenter, appealed to be greatly, because I have been busy with carpentry all my life. Learning the trade from my Dad, and brother Passionists in the Order.
I still have a pretty good workshop – and I am a favorite customer of Bunnings Hardware here in Sydney. But, if I may digress for a moment….so often when I am in Bunnings, people come up to me and ask were certain things are in the Store…..I must have a certain look on my face there that fits the other older men employees! Do you feel like a Coffee or a cup of Tea at this stage? So, finally our personal identity is paramount for each of us, and we are confirmed in our identity by the people around us. When we get transferred from one Parish to another, or Monastery to Monastery, it all starts again….the whisper always among the people is….” I wonder what this bloke is like? Who is he?
So in today’s Gospel, Jesus is checking out what the Locals say about him and his identity. ‘And you; who do YOU say I am?’
Here, we’re made aware of Jesus as a personal God, who asks personal questions. Remember some of the other personal questions He asks throughout the Gospels? ‘Will you also go away?’ and ‘Do you love me more than these?’ These are personal questions addressed to the Disciples – and to us. Therefore our answers must come from us – personally! But we won’t find the answers to Jesus’ questions in a book: they are located deep within our hearts – and today is the day for us to revisit our responses to Jesus’ questions in our hearts!
The complete answers to the question ‘And you; who do YOU say I am?’ have far reaching consequences. To begin with … ‘Jesus you are my Saviour, my Lord and my God’. ‘You are the Saviour in the room of my past; the Lord of the room of my future, and you are God in the room of today’. God is totally a God of today. ‘I am who am’ (Exodus 3:14)
Seeing that He is ‘Saviour’, we don’t have to go back into the past with regret, guilt, or self-condemnation. ‘Have mercy on me O God in your goodness, in your great tenderness, wipe away my faults’ (Psalm 50:1) is an automatic response to our Saviour as He welcomes us back within the Sacrament of Penance in our sense of contrition. And, bearing in mind that Jesus is Lord of our lives, neither do we have to live in the future, with worries, anxieties and fears: we don’t have to fear the future because God holds the future, and He knows the panoramic view of all things. Our God is the God of today and nothing is impossible with God.
The great prayer of St Teresa of Avila who died in 1582, says it all for us…
‘Let nothing trouble you, let nothing frighten you.
Whoever has God, lacks nothing.
Let nothing trouble you, let nothing frighten you.
God alone is enough’.
Finally, our personal answer to the question ‘Who do you say I am?’ is in fact the great invitation from Jesus which bids a response from us. The blind receive new insight; the lame find new direction; the deaf and dumb hear and proclaim the Good News. The Cross is taken up at Baptism, and we resolutely follow the road as companions to new life with the Father.
Fr Kevin Walsh
Stanhope Gardens. 2768 New South Wales, Australia
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web:https://realhomilies.wordpress.com/