Homily September 13, 2015 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Who do people say that I am? This is a question I think we all ask of ourselves in one form or another from time to time. How do people see us, what kind of person am I? In today’s Gospel, Jesus is doing more than that in his question. His disciples have been with him for some time, they have witnessed many of his healings and miracles and listened to his words. They have seen and heard the crowds and heard the gossip and rumblings in the crowd. So Jesus asks, what is the crowd saying? In reply different ones spoke up saying John the Baptist, one of the prophets, Elijah and so on. But the Jesus turned it on them and said but who do YOU say that I am? Notice, only one spoke up and that was Peter, who proclaimed You are the Christ! From here on, Jesus began to teach them what it meant to be the Christ. Who he was and what his mission and life were about was far from what was the popular perception of who the Christ would be and what he would do for Israel and for all of humanity. The glory of past times and the days of David and Solomon were not the idea of what God intended for humanity. The understanding of life and living in a Godly way was a long process starting from the beginning of human life and continuing through every generation even to the present day. Our imperfect nature means that we must struggle to find the way even as our ancestors did. The only difference is that we have the accumulation of knowledge that should at the same time help us but also burden us to do better than the mistakes of the past.
So, when Jesus says to follow him we need to deny ourself. Harsh? Yes in a way, but let step back a moment and look at two lovers. In love, in giving and receiving it The other becomes all important. As love deepens the denial of self is actually the deepening of the relationship, losing in a sense individuality for something far better in a relationship of love. So it is Christ is telling his disciples, that to follow him they must give themselves over to a bigger and more loving relationship with him and his Father. Jesus himself did that by giving himself to be born, live and die. The cross, suffering, sacrifice all seem so foreign to human comfort and life. To love, to give to look out for each other seems so hard, yet that message remains the same and the suffering of men and women even today throughout the world proves that we still have not got his Word and life completely settled in our hearts and mind. Certainly, we can not by ourselves resolve all the world problems, but at least we can reach out of our shell and show the love of Christ to others in a real and self-giving way. Giving our self, our life for the gospel, is what saves our life.