Yes, I mean you – Jesus is asking you: “Who do YOU say that I am?” He’s not looking for the answer you learned at your Mama’s knee or the Catholic catechism answer; Not what the says say or the bumper stickers, or the easily accessible Internet.
Jesus made his first question easy – who do people say I am? The disciples parroted back what they’d heard others say, but Jesus pushes them to move to what they are hearing without their own being: “But you, who do you say that I am?” Like the disciples, each of us must answer the question for ourselves based on our own lived faith experience AND God’s word revealed in the privacy of your lectio-moments of intimate conversation with God.
Jesus commends Peter for his profession of faith but notice: He credits the insight coming from God. He does not say: “Finally, you get it!” No, ever the humble Son, he gives deference to his Father. There’s no display of false humility with a reaction like “You really think so?” He doesn’t deflect Peter’s words as if denying them. He models for us a loving example of understanding: “It’s not all about me.”
The answer to Jesus’ query is always within a context. Here’s what I mean –
Who do we say Jesus is in light of the violence in our country?
Who do we say Jesus is in the wake of the killing of police officers and smashing cares into crowds of people and the continuing unrest between nations?
Who do we say Jesus is when a loved one dies, the doctor gives news we didn’t want to hear, when days are grey of our life seems to be falling all apart?
Who do we say Jesus is when we are faced with decisions that have no easy answers, when the night is dark and the storms of life overwhelm us, when faithfulness means risking it all and taking a stand against a louder and seemingly more powerful voice?
Who we say Jesus is has everything to do with who we are. In some ways our answers says as much or more about us than about Jesus. It reveals how we live and what we stand for. It guides our decisions, and determines the actions we take and the words we speak. We need constantly remind ourselves: “It’s not what people look at, it’s what they see; not what we say but what they hear.” Like the TV ad for a local hospital “What they remember is the feeling.” One harsh words can undo all the holy words we said in chapel. One snub in order not to sit next to someone or refusal to give up “my seat” for a guest will not go unnoticed. One unkind deed will stick tighter in the memory than all the hugs and kisses, and smiles and compliments and good-bye blessing songs. If visitors stay long enough they may see us in our most embarrassing moments, but they also see the love and acceptance we experience in our community life. One writer puts it: the community loves us and keeps us anyway despite all our warts.
In some sense there is no once and for all, finally and forever answer to Jesus query. We are always living the questions: Who am I? Who do you say that I am? Who Jesus was when I was a child is different from who he was when I was in my 30s or who he is for me today. Hopefully, who he is for me next year will be different from who he is today. It’s not that Jesus has changed, or will change. I have, or will. We are constantly engaging his questions in so doing, we not only discover Jesus anew we discover ourselves anew.
Try holding up the mirror – turn the question around, ask Jesus: “Who do you say that I am – why do you love me so much?
Jesus’ life and presence among us calls into question everything about our lives, our world. That’s why we ought not answer his question too quickly, too glibly, or with too much certainty. It’s not a question to be figured out as much as it is a question to be lived. “You, who do you say that I am?” S. Roberta Bailey, OSB
First ReadingIsaiah 22:19-23 * Second ReadingRomans 11:33-36
First Reading Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11 Second Reading 1 Cor. 12:3b-7,12-13Gospel John 20:19-23
“The following is an excerpt borrowed from Sister Joan Chittister. And with Pentecost the Easter season comes to a close – the return to Ordinary Time came in with a lovely, light rain shower so needed by our earth… may peace also flood across the world.” AMEN. Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB
Do I believe in the Holy Spirit? You bet I do. Nothing else makes sense. Either the Spirit of God who created us is with us still, either the presence of Christ who is the Way abides in us in spirit, or the God of Creation and the Redeemer of souls have never been with us at all. God’s spirit does not abandon us, cannot abandon us, if God is really God. If we are to understand emerging consciousness as a manifestation of the Spirit of God alive in the land, then never has an age seen revelation, consciousness, and wisdom working more clearly than in this one. The signs of new awareness of the human relationship to God are everywhere, in all nations, in all peoples. The Holy Spirit has spoken through married couples and professional personnel about birth control, for instance. The Holy Spirit has spoken through women—and other eminent theologians, theological societies, and male scripture scholars as well—about the ordination of women. The Holy Spirit has spoken through laity and bishops and multiple other rites of the church about the ordination of married men. But no one listens. The Holy Spirit in people of good will is a voice crying in the wilderness, rejected, ignored, and reviled. One element of the church determines the voice of the Spirit and does so, it seems, by refusing to listen to its other manifestations. The Spirit of God moves us to new heights of understanding, to new types of witness, to new dimensions of life needed in the here and now. The static dies under the impulse of the Spirit of a creating God. We do not live in the past. We are not blind beggars on a dark road groping our separate ways toward God. There is a magnet in each of us, a gift for God that repels deceit and impels us toward good. The gifts are mutual, mitered to fit into one another for strength and surety. We are, in other words, in the most refreshingly trite, most obviously astounding way, all in this together—equally adult, equally full members, equally responsible for the church. Nor does any one dimension of the church, then, have a monopoly on insight, on grace, on the promptings of God in this place at this time. The Spirit of God is a wild thing, breathing where it will, moving as it pleases, settling on women and men alike. —from Joan Chittister: Essential Writings, selected by Mary Lou Kownacki and Mary Hembrow Snyder (Orbis)
“Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” Jesus challenges us with this task in every time and place. How often people shy away and make the excuse: “I’m only human. I’m not perfect.” Jesus never requires anything of us without giving us the means to acquire it. He calls us to perfection and, in turn, gives us the Beatitudes as the road-map to the path of perfection.
The Beatitudes have been called the Magna Carta of the Christian life, and the Charter of the New Covenant. By striving to live them, we will grow in holiness. In today’s Gospel, Jesus takes a seat on the Mount which signifies the ancient gesture of a teach communicating important truths to his followers. The Beatitudes challenge us to measure ourselves against them.”
The eight Beatitudes, St. John Paul II, said are the road signs that show the way. It is an uphill path, but He has walked it before us: Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are the clean of heart. Blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness.
What better way could we examine our consciences than to prayerfully reflect on the Beatitudes, their meaning in one’s life, and most of all to ask the question: “Am I living them?” Even if we have failed to measure up to them, we can begin anew through the grace of God’s mercy in the sacrament of penance. Jesus has given us the roadmap to heaven; let us do all in our power, with His grace, to reach our destination safely. Fr. Paul Burke, Holy Spirit College
We started our service this evening (Nov. 27, 2016) with a short procession – barely six yards and a few steps from the doorway to the Advent candle — but it is long enough to set the tenor for this holy season. In a world where it would be easy to seclude ourselves and disengage from others, we walk… together… in silence.
Not more than a few steps were had before the silence occasionally is broken naturally enough. A cough, a sneeze; the perpetual sound of footfalls against the tile floor. Our voices start out quiet but our bodies aren’t. Indeed, it seems as if our very bodies sing out as we enter the chapel, calling out to the whole Body of Christ to march together in quiet contemplation as we chant an ancient Advent hymn – the verses change from week to week telling the story of salvation history.
As we walk, and as we pray, we all share one thing: a strained hope for a world of mercy, of justice, of peace. This season we’re not going “up to Jerusalem” but quietly moving together to “Bethlehem town” – to the cave of our own hearts and the cradle of God’s love incarnate.
And this is how we come to God: quietly shuffling along, coughing, maybe a whisper to point out the place in the hymn book, and bumping into one another. And, bowing to one another as we reverence the Christ within personified in our partners. We walk together toward the rebirth of our own spirits.
You see, this is not the glorious, boisterous, triumphant atmosphere of a Palm Sunday. Advent is a season for the broken, for those hurting in body or mind or spirit. It is a season for people who have struggled, who can do nothing else but wait. It is a season for a people whose exhausted, desperate cry is only, “Come!”
The four weeks of waiting, preparation, and anticipation is marked by the lighting of the candles on the Advent wreath. As we listen to the strike of a match (or these days to the click, click of a lighter) and watch the flame on the candle leap to life, something happens in us. Gazing on the lighted candles inspires reflection and the recall of memories – not whole stories but snippets of Advent and Christmas past: the gifts we received and the ones we gave – our presence at a special Christmas Mass or program. On and on goes the string of moments and episodes that people offer up when given an opportunity to share.
One such story is told by a woman who recalled the Christmas she experienced when she was a young child eager for a particular doll for her Christmas gift. She’d searched without luck every hiding place she knew her parents used. Now it was Christmas eve. Her parents had a rule that the children couldn’t get out of bed until 5 a.m. to wake them up and open their gifts. But the young girl couldn’t stand it, so at 4 a.m. she sneaked down to the tree to have a look. She recalled the tree was beautiful, all lit up and surrounded by presents. Some were obviously socks, and sweaters and PJs but one looked promising and was marked with her name. Against her better judgment, she peeled back a little bit of the wrapping paper – on the underside where she thought no one would notice. Lo and behold it was just the gift she had hoped for! She danced a silent, exhilarated gig in glee!
Hardly able to contain her joy, she put the wrapping paper back together as best she could and crept back upstairs and went back to sleep with visions of her doll dancing in her dreams. Then, about an hour later, she woke up her parents and the family trooped downstairs – the kids taking two stairs at time, the parents looking almost awake. Much to everyone’s surprise (well, almost everyone) they found a note from Santa that explained that, because Susie had peeked at her gift, Santa had taken back all her presents. She recalled she had never cried so hard in her life. It turned out it was all a prank by her older brother, who had witnessed the peeking. The story has a happy ending though: Susie’s presents reappeared.
Like an eager child, during Advent, Christians wait in anticipation for the gift of Christmas: the coming of Jesus. But unlike curiosity about toys, it’s OK to take a sneak peek. That’s because God wants us to anticipate. And, God will never ever take away our Christmas present from us.
It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope. God only asks that we take time to be aware that in the very midst of our busy preparations for the celebration of Christ’s birth in ancient Bethlehem, Christ is reborn in the Bethlehem of our community, in our homes and daily lives. Take time, slow down, be still, be awake to the Divine Mystery that looks so common and so ordinary yet is wondrously present.
An Ancient Ones was fond of saying, ‘The devil is always the most active on the highest feast days.’ The supreme trick of the devil is to have us so busy decorating, preparing food, practicing music and cleaning in preparation for the feast of Christmas that we actually miss the coming of Christ. Hurt feelings, anger, impatience, injured egos—the list of clouds that busyness creates to blind us to the birth can be long, but it is familiar to us all. The coming of Christ and his presence among us—as one of us—gives us reason to live in hope: that light will shatter the darkness, that we can be liberated from our fears and prejudices, that we are never alone or abandoned.
May this season of Advent be a time for bringing into our hearts, and homes, a spirit of hope and transformation that flowers at Christmas. S. Roberta Bailey, Prioress