- The Abbey of the Genesee - http://www.geneseeabbey.org -

August 27, 2017

Fr. Gerard D’Souza, OCSO [1]

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

But you, who do you say that I am? The disciples have just been telling Jesus what the crowd thinks of him. And then He hurls the thunderbolt at them. But you, not the crowds, not your family, you – who do you say that I am. I can imagine some them wanting to hide, some looking down in embarrassment. But the fact is the Son of God is asking them, each one of them this question. This tells us something important about ourselves –we truly matter to God. There is a deep mystery about us. We might not be too smart or good looking or come from a rough background but we are persons who will not pass away. Our depths lies in the depths of God. This is why He looks us in the face and asks us for our own answer. Otherwise He would not have bothered. To answer this we must have a face of our own. We must find our own voice. This is not an easy thing for us because we have lost our personal voice and our face.

We have been swallowed up by crowd- consciousness. We find safety in the herd. We become the mouth pieces of public opinion, of the latest fads. We consume entertainment and disappear in the mass audience. We are programmed to admire the stars on the big screen and in turn consider ourselves to be nobodies. We lose our identity and personal power in the complex bureaucracy of this world. And yet we like the anonymity of group consciousness. Because solitude scares us, silence frightens us. We flee from this into noise and busyness. This is why Jesus’ question is very challenging. He is asking us to stand out by ourselves. He does not want us to hide in the crowd. He does not want pat answers. Now we might not matter much in the eyes of the world. Or for that matter in our own eyes. But the fact is – we matter to God. If we did not, He would not have asked us this personal question. We must not dodge this.

Our answer to this will determine our eternal salvation. Who is Jesus? He himself said ‘this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ’ He is not looking for an answer from the Catechism. This question will require the response of our life. To say that Jesus is the Son of the Living God means to live as if He is the Son of God. It means we have come to realize that our lives our empty without Him. That He is not just a universal savior. He is our life. This is faith. Faith connects us at the deepest level to the Risen Christ. His life comes streaming into us and our lives change. Not just our lives but our minds and hearts. We begin to taste and sense a new life within us, a new hope. The question – you, who do you say that I am – engages our lives and does not let go of us ever. For it draws us slowly but surely into the mystery of Christ and into the mystery of our own person.

This question will also change your life and you will lose control. Peter replied ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God’ He did not know then how his life would change. Love had hooked him. There was the time when Jesus was telling them about the Eucharist. And many of his disciples left Him then. But Peter could not. His answer had made him a prisoner of the truth. “Master to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God’ Faith chained Peter to the Lord and it revealed the depths of his weakness. Peter came to know himself as a sinner. He boasted that he would never leave the Lord but he denied Him three times. Finally Peter was crucified like His Lord. His answer to the question, demanded that he answer with his life and not just with his lips.

My brothers and sisters, this morning, the Lord in His word is asking each of us this question ‘You, who do you say that I am?’ He wants you in the solitude of your heart to give your answer. You must get in touch with the truth in your own heart. Who is Christ Jesus for you? You must confront in solitude the resistances, the rebellions in honesty if you are to answer this. Does He matter at all? Does He mean everything to you? This is an answer only you can give. No one else can give it for you. You must answer with your life and if you do, it will change your life.