24th Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 16, 2018 (Thoman)
Is 50:4c-9a | James 2:14-18 | Mk 8:27-35
“Who do you say I am?” Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ.”
I. This is the key question of Christian life: Who do you and I say Jesus is? It all comes
down to this. Given all our years of being disciples of Jesus – since baptism – since
childhood – through our young adult and adult years….we must come to that
St. Peter, the other apostles, the band of disciples have been following Jesus
for quite some time, probably more than two years…they’ve had a chance to check
him out, to study him, to consider his teachings, to witness his miracles – surely
they were formulating some opinion about who he was. Was he just a really good
teacher? …a good friend ….someone intriguing ….or even possibly the promised
Messiah, the Savior the Jews had long hoped for….hmmmm.
So Jesus raises the question: what do you think? Who do you say I am? Peter
speaks up for the group and proclaims, “You are the Christ.”
But Peter didn’t really understand what that meant.
Our gospel selection today from Mark is the exact center of Mark’s gospel. All
of the narrative in Mark’s gospel has been building up to this point – and now the
identity of Jesus is revealed. The gospel now takes a much more sober tone.
II. The question, of course, is turned upon us. Who do we say – who do you and I say –
Jesus is? Our response to that question carries with it different levels of
A. Is Jesus a famous historical figure from the past? Genghis Khan, perhaps.
King Tut from Egypt. Caesar Augustus, of Rome. Maybe members of the
British royalty. George Washington.
All famous people – maybe people we want to learn more about – but
that really require any commitment.
B. Maybe an important religious figure – maybe somewhat like the people of
Jesus’ time who thought maybe he was Elijah or John the Baptist brought
back from the dead. Important religious figures in their history. We know
our religious faith revolves around Jesus. We know he’s important. We are
impressed by his teachings and we find them helpful.
Our commitment is we try to live by those teachings. We try to love
God and our neighbor and ourselves. We just try to be a good person, but
we really wouldn’t want to share our ideas or what we do with others.
C. Or is Jesus someone you have come to know personally? Do you know Jesus
as a very close friend? Are you willing to commit your total self to Jesus?
This is what Peter – and the others – had yet to learn. Peter tried to tell
Jesus what the Messiah is supposed to be like – but it was Jesus who set Peter
straight: the Messiah will suffer, and those who wish to follow him must
follow in those footsteps: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny
himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his
life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel
will save it.”
That is the commitment Jesus asks of us.
III. Our theme for Catechetical Sunday this year is “Enlisting Witnesses for Jesus Christ.”
In order to do that we ourselves must be witnesses for Christ. We must be men and
women for whom Jesus means everything. Pope Francis gives us some advice on
how to deepen our encounter with Jesus: “Are there moments when you place
yourself quietly in the Lord’s presence, when you calmly spend time with him, when
you bask in his gaze? Do you let his fire inflame your heart?”
Today we recognize each of us as witnesses for Christ. And we will bless those
specifically committed to forming others in the way of Christ – those who are our
catechists and leaders in faith formation. They, in turn, will be forming our children
and youth as witnesses for Christ.
IV. So, who is Jesus? Who is Jesus to you and to me? When we spend time
encountering Christ – when we allow him to enlighten and renew us – the way in
which we live will be the final answer to who we say he is.
Fr. Dwayne Thoman