Gospel and Homily Notes by Archbishop Joseph Harris, C.S. Sp
Gospel: Luke, 9:18-24
Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’” Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.” He rebuked them and directed them not to tell this to anyone. He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
I have often wondered about the content of the prayers that so many persons say and the reason for these prayers. I hear of so many novenas and other types of prayer that I also wonder to myself to whom are these prayers and novenas directed. The answer to these questions tells us of course what people think about Jesus. For some Jesus is the problem solver, for some the consoler, for still others, the God to be placated, for others the One to be imitated, for others the fount of wisdom. The big question for all of us though is “Who is Jesus Christ for me?”
The gospel reading given to us for our meditation today deals with this issue. The text tells us that Jesus asks his disciples “Who do the crowds say that I am.” The crowds who are acquainted with Jesus superficially give him various identities. “John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the ancient prophets” Jesus is none of these however.
Jesus then turns to his disciples, those who had walked with him and lived intimately with him, and asks them. “But you, who do you say that I am”
Peter speaks up for the others, “The Christ of God” he says. This is the true answer and it is so precious that it cannot be bandied about. It is something that has to be treated with reverence and respect and cannot be shared with people who will not respect it. So Jesus gave the disciples strict orders not to tell anyone about it.
We live in an age in which we think that we can know people through psychological tests and things like that, the Gospel tells us that it is only people who have walked with us for a while who can truly know us.
People from northern countries speak about people from the south often very disrespectfully. They think that they know us but they don’t. We speak of other religions and faith communities very disrespectfully, when we do not know them. Jesus was spoken of in the same way by people who did not know him and had no interest in knowing him. This continues to happen. Many persons speak erroneously about Jesus because they do not know him or only have superficial knowledge about him. Only those persons who spend time with the Lord through prayer and scripture reading ever really come to know the Lord; or put differently, we come to know the Lord in the measure that we spend time with the Lord. This is seen very clearly in the lives of the saints. They speak of the Lord in ways which show their intimacy with him. So often they speak of Jesus as their friend and companion.
What is also true is that our relationship with other human beings depends to a large extent on our relationship with the Lord. In an age in which the media tends to tell us who people are, we must always remember that those opinions are extremely superficial, and do not give us true portraits, and are at most one dimensional. The worst is that judgements about people are made on extremely superficial characterizations, and at best, on very partial knowledge of individuals. The result is that we lose respect for people who have a right to respect no matter who they may be.
The Church has always preached that we must give respect to all, political leaders, rich, poor, the sick with infectious diseases, criminals etc. But we can only do that if we know people a little less superficially than knowing them from media reports. A corollary of this is that we open ourselves to others, not indiscriminately but in a way that will engender respect.
This is very important in T&T at the moment because of the politically charged climate in which we live. People are being judged as if their alleged activities is the sum total of their being. There are many more dimensions to individuals.
It is our duty as followers of Christ to keep the tradition of the Church alive. The great saints of the church walked with people especially the poor and suffering got to know them and had great respect for them. Mother Teresa of Calcutta is a great example of this. They could do this however because of their knowledge of Jesus Christ and their allegiance to him. Knowledge of Christ and his acceptance bring us to new life.
We thank God for the examples of the saints and we pray that we will be able to keep alive the Christian tradition of respect for all, by really seeking to know people through our closeness to them and because of our knowledge of the Lord Jesus.
Father, help us to know your Son Jesus. Help us to understand that it is only be giving time to Him that we will ever know Him. Bring us to a deep relationship with him so that our relationship with him may help us to build true and selfless relationships with others. We ask this through the intercession of Mary, our Mother and the same Jesus, your Son. Amen