21st Sunday of the year A
Have you ever been surprised by an impression that has been created in your mind of someone by others only to have that impression unexpectedly and surprisingly shattered by actually meeting that person face-to-face? We can be introduced to someone after having heard so much about them, maybe in a positive or negative way. Our own experience and encounter may be so radically and positively different and surprisingly so. I certainly have learned that I must be open and receptive to being pleasantly surprised – as it is so easy to pigeon-hole other people with labels and tags. I must try to open to what they have to say, rather than believe hype and distortions, and prejudices though gossip, and ignorance.
There is therefore a difference between knowing ABOUT SOMEONE through what you have heard about them, or seeing them from a distance and getting to KNOW THEM first hand.
There can also be a public impression created of someone that is totally the opposite of our own experience of that person.
Just as we should never act on second hand information, we would be wrong to form a conclusive impression of someone or act on that weak knowledge simply on the basis of others’ impressions of them without having been in conversation or having spent some time with them. We ourselves would not like to be dismissed or labelled unfairly, neither should we harbour that attitude to others.
Nowhere is this more crucial than our knowledge of Jesus. What is our thinking of our image of God?
Today Jesus asks of the disciples what PUBLIC OPINION of Him is, and then asks the disciples what THEY actually think of Him and who they think He is. We see that public opinion, with all its contrary judgments, is wrong!
Who do others say that I am?
We have been taught about God by parents and religion teachers and have formed ideas of God solely as judge, as one to be feared, as a policeman, as a ready punisher of evil, as an accountant tabulating our offences and sins, as a distant indifferent bemused patriarchal type of heavenly figure on a cloud who is nevertheless ready to pounce and strike lightning bolts on us if we sin. We have to shed false images of Him through our own fears and upbringing. Now rather is truth that God is judge and punisher of sin, but what about love and mercy? As Jesus said to St Catherine of Siena ‘I want you to fly to heaven on both wings’ - justice and mercy.
Who do you say that I am?
What is your own experience? There is no more important question of all the 200 questions Jesus asks of His followers and enquirers in the 4 Gospel accounts.
It is a question He puts to you and to me continuously. Who do you say that I am?
We might ask ourselves ‘why does it matter so much?’ Because it is a matter of faith, and relationship. And maybe too because we are going to meet Him some day! Faith is not just knowing about Jesus intellectually that He is the Son of God and Saviour of the world, second Person of the Blessed Trinity, and the tenets of the Creed but that He is your and my Saviour and my God as well as everyone else’s.
It is a sign of MATURE personal faith that we can be here as adults and stand up and be counted, that I am here not on account of others simply, but because I believe it, I believe in Jesus as My Lord and Saviour.
So it is one thing to ask or to be asked ‘Who is Jesus Christ?’ but quite another and far more significant to be asked the question – ‘Who is Jesus Christ for you?’
Peter’s faith and interior inspiration is the strongest, and so he is the rock on which Christ builds His Church. While Peter the first Pope was a weak individual at many levels, yet his faith and love for Christ were unshakeable. The Church’s faith is built upon Peter and the Apostles and therefore our faith in and knowledge of Christ is strengthened and fortified on this foundation. We have a duty to study our faith as adults, in order to deepen and copper-fasten our faith as well as leading to a more authentic love of Christ. I recommend the Catechism of the Catholic Church, available for €10 in the Cathedral bookshop, as constant reading besides the Bible. It tells us who Christ is and the implications of that faith – in our personal prayer, in public worship, in our individual and collective moral behaviour, and all the other aspects of our faith.
You might be surprised too to learn exactly what the Church teaches compared to the false impressions created by others.
Which brings us back to the original question of what influences our thinking, the truth of false representations of the truth, particularly about others.
What does Jesus say about Himself? And what may Jesus be saying once more to you and to me today?
Jesus Himself tells us that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, ands ‘no-one can come to the Father except through Me.’ ‘I am the light of the world, anyone who follows me will not be walking in darkness..’. Come follow me.
Posted by FrJohnCobh