B Cycle – 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time 21
Did you ever wonder why God used a burning bush to get Moses to stop what he was doing and out of curiosity approach that burning bush? The same God who spoke to Adam and Eve face to face and interacted face to face with them daily. But to Moses, he never reveals himself until sometime later when Moses asked God to show him his glory. How can we ever understand God’s universal plan for us or his specific plan for each of us if we do not take the time to listen to him speak to our hearts? If we begin to listen as we pray, we will begin to grasp something that would totally change who God is to us.
After all that is the question God asks of the disciples in today’s gospel is a critical one for us isn’t it. “Who do you say that I am” is a critical question we all must answer at some point in our faith journey? Is God someone we know who created us and who will decide our eternal fate? Or is God an approachable loving God who delights in our every success and will remove all barriers we create between him and us by our lack of faith. Those barriers are our own creation and once we grasp how our future lies in discovering how God prepared a means to overcome them, we will discover who we are and begin to embrace his plan for our holiness.
By the time Jesus asks the disciples who people believed him to be he had performed many miracles for the people. He has cast out demons, healed the lepers and the crippled. He has challenged the strict adherence to the law by the Pharisees and their defining holiness by the law verses the Spirit teaching us how a transformed heart provides the ability to live the law. Jesus has walked on water, multiplied the loaves and fishes and restored sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf. The disciples themselves, have been sent out to proclaim the gospel and have also healed the sick. With all of that you might think they are not only believers in who he is, but they truly understand the reason for his becoming one of us, a man, flesh, and blood.
The first question is easy to answer because it demands nothing of us except to recite all the things people believer or do not believe about Jesus. The disciples knowing the Pharisees opinion of Jesus only responds with the beliefs of the average everyday person. He is Elijah or Moses who have come again to earth. The people believe that abut him is because of the miracles performed at the hands of each of them? Elijah multiplied food, he raised the dead, healed the leper, invoked God to end a drought, challenged the people to choose God over other gods. Moses invoked God to bring the plagues upon the land of Pharaoh freeing the people from slavery, he listened to God as he parted the red sea and fed them or gave them water to drink. He went up the mountain and encountered the living God and lives as he received the law so they might live.
Who Jesus was to the people is a good question then and now. We like them must get past what we know of God to grasp not only who Jesus was but why he came. The real issue of faith for all of us lies in the why he came not the who he is. We can easily get caught up in an image of God that misses the point of why he came. Jesus said clearly that he came to reveal the father. So, we must examine ourselves and answer the first question of our understanding of God before we can even begin to consider any question about Jesus.
What is your image of God and how has your understanding of Jesus helped you form that image? Why that is important for us is critical to how we pray, how we live our faith and how we give witness to our belief in Jesus and how we grow in the spiritual gifts and in holiness.
Peter after answering the first question responds to the second one with a firm solid deep felt belief that Jesus was the Messiah. But his understanding of what the messiah would do to free us was incorrect. Jesus clearly told them he would suffer and die. The disciples could not grasp how that would set them free and Peter voiced their lack of understanding. Jesus severely admonishes him calling him a “Satan” and told him and us how our thinking must be transformed by God. Which leads us to ourselves and our understanding of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for our sins. Do we believe the penalty of our sins have been paid by Jesus’s death? Do we still attempt to overcome the penalty we must pay for our sins by doing things to lessen the penalty of our sins?
Do we leave the Sacrament of Reconciliation feeling the forgiveness of God or does the stench of our sins still cling to us? Does the sacrament of forgiveness leave us feeling the embrace of the Father and move us to rely on the grace of his mercy to change our hearts so we follow his will and become bold witnesses of God’s mercy? Does the Spirit by flooding us with the love of God motivate us to become the disciples who go out and proclaim the good news of God’s desire to open the flood gates of mercy to everyone?
Like Peter we need to have our belief in who Jesus is challenged by Jesus himself which means we must have an encounter with Jesus. There is only one way to encounter him and that is to seek to know him by your prayer life and by asking the Spirit to reveal Jesus to you as you read the scriptures and as you sit at his feet as Mary of Bethany did.