Thursday, October 20, 2011

Homily for the Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time

Quem Me esse dicitis?

Homily for the Twenty First Sunday of Ordered Time
August 21st, 2011
Corpus Christi Parish
Rev. Mr. Michael Taylor

Simon Peter answered and said: You are Christ, the Son of the Living God. And Jesus answering said to him: Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but My Father who is in heaven.[1]

In today’s gospel, we have Jesus giving His apostles a pop quiz. He is curious as to what they’ve heard regarding what people thought He was all about. He asks, them, who do others say that I am? [2] This is a safe question. It does not require the Apostles to do anything but repeat back what they’ve heard. And this is what they do. They reply, Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.[3] Then Jesus asks them the question which strikes to the very heart. It’s personal. It is a question asked by one man to another, one that necessitates an act of faith. But who do you say that I am? [4] It is then that Peter makes his great act of faith. He does not reply with a the title, Lord, or Rabbi, or Son of Man, or Prophet. Peter, without hesitation says, You are Christ, the Son of the living God.[5] If what he says is false, then Simon Bar-Jonah is guilty of blasphemy and idolatry, deserving to be stoned to death. Yet his proclamation of faith is greeted with joy and blessing by Jesus,[6] who bestows upon Simon Bar-Jonah a new name, Peter, meaning rock.[7] Simon Bar-Jonah’s act of faith transforms him into the rock upon which Christ will build His Church.[8]
But what about us? Who do we say that this carpenter from Nazareth is? Too often Jesus is transformed into various manifestations to fit whatever the prevailing attitude of the time might be. Even the attempt to find the “real” “historical” Jesus resulted in a product where Jesus oddly enough looked like the 19th century authors themselves. So who is this Jesus of Nazareth? Why should we care? Indeed, many people have tried to find ways of dismissing Him, replacing the Son, and choosing to focus on the Father instead. We all have one Father, and so let us not worry about the Son. The great faiths all have one Father, so let us focus on that, rather than this 2,000 year old oddity.[9]
The problem with this is that we have forgotten about the Christ. We have heard the phrase “Jesus Christ” so often that we begin to think of Christ as a last name. Yet Christ is a title, a label of identity and function. Joseph and Mary were not known as ‘Mr. and Mrs. Christ.’ No, Christ means ‘anointed one’ and here the scriptures bear witness to what this means. The psalmists foretells of Jesus when it writes, The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and His anointed…Thus the Lord has said, “I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.” [10] The Lord has said to His anointed, You are my son, today I have begotten you.[11] The Prophet Isaiah had foreseen the messiah born of the Virgin [12] when he wrote, The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me: he hath sent me to preach to the meek, to heal the contrite of heart, and to preach a release to the captives, and deliverance to them that are shut up to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.[13] Did not Jesus Himself read these very same words in the synagogue and then tell the assembled, Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing? [14] This is why it is written in Hebrews, but of the Son [it is written], “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, the righteous scepter is the scepter of Thy Kingdom. Thou hast loves righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, thy God, has anointed Thee with the oil of gladness beyond Thy comrades.[15]
Thus we cannot separate the person of Jesus from the Christ, the messiah He was sent to be. It was for this reason that Peter proclaimed to Jesus that You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. “For what faith really states is precisely that with Jesus it is not possible to distinguish office and person; with Him, this differentiation simply becomes inapplicable. The person is the office; the office is the person. The two are no longer separable.” [16] If we want salvation, we want the anointed, we want the Christ who is Jesus. We cannot think of Jesus merely as a great moral teacher, or a person who was somehow unsure as to why He was here. There was writing in The Evangelist two weeks ago, the commentary on the upcoming week’s scripture. The misguided author mistakenly thought that Jesus was somehow confused as to why He was here on earth. This is heresy. For does not Jesus repeatedly reveal His mission to the earth? Did not Jesus say to Zacchaeus, the sinful tax collector, Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost? [17] Did not Jesus say, before Abraham was, I AM?[18] Did not Jesus say, I and the Father are One? [19] Both of these times, the people around Him picked up stones to kill Jesus for blasphemy, for they knew that He was claiming to be God. Indeed, since only God can forgive sins,[20] only God could tell the paralytic man which is easier to say, ‘your sins are forgiven,’ or to say ‘rise and walk?’ But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ [21] Even the demons whom Jesus cast out knew that God stood before them, for they cried out in Jesus’ presence, What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time? [22]
Then why do some harden their hearts, and do not admit to the divinity of the Christ, the one whom is known as Jesus? Who do you say that Jesus is? Our answer to this question changes everything, for if Jesus is the Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, one in being with the Father, then we cannot ignore His message. If Jesus is the Christ, then what is written in John becomes necessary of salvation, that God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in [the Son] is not condemned; he that does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. [23] For as it was spoken by Peter in the Acts of the Apostles, There is salvation in one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.[24] “It must therefore be firmly believed as a truth of Catholic faith that the universal salvific will of the One and Triune God is offered and accomplished once for all in the mystery of the incarnation, death and resurrection of the Son of God.”[25]
Now what are we to do? God has become incarnate, and dwelt among us. Furthermore, this is not a truth that is some distant event. Rather, the Incarnation becomes present for us at every mass. Yet we treat this truth, this grace, and this great witness of God’s love so cavalierly. When I was doing my basic officer course in the Army as a chaplain, another chaplain who is a Muslim imam and I were talking about our various faiths. I asked him about Islam and he asked me about Catholicism. At one point, he looked at me and said, you believe that your Eucharist, is really the body and blood of Jesus, correct? I replied yes. He then said, and you believe that the prophet Jesus is in actuality God Himself? “Yes.” The Imam said, “I do not believe this.” I tried to explain to him why we believe that Jesus is God, and why we believe in the Eucharist, but he interrupted me. He said, “It is not that I do not believe your faith. That is obvious. I do not think you Catholics believe your faith. For if I believed that Allah himself was present in that tabernacle of yours, I would not be able to get off of my knees in praise.” It was a hard statement to swallow. So often we pass by Jesus, present in our parishes, and never think of stopping by. God Himself dwells with us and too often, we leave Him alone.
I know that it might seem to some that to speak of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament as being lonely as mere pious sentimentality. I know that it might seem foolish to believe that God somehow misses me. But I don’t know about you, but I want to believe in a God of whom it is written, I will gather my people…and sprinkle clean water on them to cleanse them of their sins…and you shall be my people and I shall be your God.[26] I want to believe in a God who says, you are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God.[27] I want to believe in a Christ who said, I am the good shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep.[28] I want to believe in a Jesus who is the shepherd who went out to find the lost sheep,[29] the one who went to find the lost coin,[30] the one who longs to gather us like his children.[31] I want to believe in the God who is like the Father who waited at his doorway waiting for the prodigal son to come home and then rejoiced at his presence.[32] Yes, I will admit I believe that Jesus, present in the Blessed Sacrament misses me, and wants my presence.
If we want to know who Jesus is, we need to spend time with Him. We need to sit at the feet of the Master, and learn from His words. Is it not for this reason that Jesus said of Mary to Martha, one thing is needful, Mary has chosen the good, which shall not be taken away from her? [33] That is why we will be beginning Eucharistic Adoration here at Corpus Christi this September. It will be every Thursday night from 6pm to 8:30 with benediction at the end. You don’t have to be here for the entire time. Come for an hour. Come for a half hour. Come just to stop in for 5 minutes of silence in a busy world. Come just for the blessing. Whatever you can give Christ, He will love you all the more so for the gift of your presence. We will have sign up lists so that we can make sure that there is always someone present. I invite you to come and sit in the presence of God, to look at Him and tell Him what you see, but more importantly, to let Him look at you and tell you what He sees.[34]
Part of the reason we are doing this is for the youth. As you may have heard, we are redoing our Youth Ministry here at Corpus Christi. We will be doing a lot of cool things, a lot of fun events. You’ll learn how to bake five awesome things that everyone will love you for. You’ll learn some cool things along the way. We will take trips to the apple orchards, to the haunted hay ride and ski trips. We will do service projects to serve those in most need. But we will also spend some time in front of the Blessed Sacrament, from about 8 to 8:30 every Thursday. It is important that we spend time with Jesus, all of us. But for you who are out there, and might be considering coming to youth ministry, I promise you only one thing. You will find God. You will encounter the One who formed you in your mother’s womb,[35] and knew you before you were born.[36] So often you are bombarded with images and thoughts that tell you, “If you don’t succeed at school, you’re not good enough. If you don’t go to college, you’re a failure. If you aren’t pretty enough, you’re not worth being loved.” I will promise you that at this parish, on Thursday nights, you will find the One who created you out of love. You will learn what it means to be loved and to love. Pope Benedict XVI at his speech at World Youth Day said, “Use these days to know Christ better and to make sure that, rooted in Him, your enthusiasm and happiness, your desire to go further, to reach the heights, even God Himself, always hold a sure future, because the fullness of life has already been placed within you. Let that life grow within divine grace, generously and with half-measures, as you remain steadfast in your aim for holiness.”[37] I hope Thursdays will give you the time to do just that.
I hope the adults here will come and join the youth in praying on Thursday nights. It’s important that we pray together. It is important that those who are participating in youth ministry know that prayer isn’t something they have to do as kids. It is even more important that we as adults do that. I hope to see you here on Thursdays starting in September. I promise that you will come to know the one named Jesus.

[1] Mt 16.16-17
[2] Mt 16.13
[3] Mt. 16.14
[4] Mt. 16.15
[5] Mt 16.16
[6] St. John Chrysostom. Homily 54 on Matthew: §2: “Yet surely, unless he [Peter] had rightly confessed Him, as begotten of the very Father Himself, this were no work of revelation; had he accounted our Lord to be one of the many, his saying would not be worthy of a blessing.”
[7] Cf. Mt. 16.17
[8] Cf. Mt.
[9] Ratzinger. Introduction to Christianity. p. 199: Ratzinger offers a systematic response as to why this approach ultimately ends in heresy.
[10] Ps. 2.2,6
[11] Ps. 2.7
[12] Cf. Is 7.14; Mt 1.23
[13] Is 61.1-2
[14] Lk 4.18-21, especially 21
[15] Heb 1.8-9
[16] Ratzinger. Introduction to Christianity, p. 203
[17] Lk 19.9-10
[18] John 8.58
[19] Jn 10.30
[20] St. John Chrysostom, Homily 54 on Matthew, §3: “Do you see how He, His own self, leads Peter on to high thoughts of Him, and reveals Himself, and implies that He is the Son of God by these two promises? For those things which are peculiar to God alone, (both to absolve sins, and to make the church incapable of overthrow in such assailing waves, and to exhibit a man that is a fisher more solid than any rock, while all the world is at war with him), these He promises Himself to give.”
[21] Mt 9.5-6
[22] Mt. 8.29; Cf. Lk 4.41
[23] Jn 3.17-18
[24] Acts 4.12
[25] Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. Dominus Iesus. 2000, §14; II Vatican Council Gaudium et spes §10; II Vatican Council, Lumen gentium, §62; Saint Augustine, De civitate Dei §10: “Of Christ there is the way, which has never been lacking to mankind…and apart from this way no one has been set free, no one is being set free, no one will be set free.”
[26] Ez 36.24,25, 28
[27] Ez 34.31
[28] Jn 10.11
[29] Cf. Mt. 18.12-14; Lk 15.4-5
[30] Cf. Lk 15.8
[31] Cf. Lk 13.34
[32] Cf. Lk 15.11-32
[33] Lk. 10.42
[34] This great pearl of wisdom comes from a very holy priest, Father Laurence Hennessey of the Archdiocese of Chicago, of whom I was blessed to have briefly as my spiritual director.
[35] Ps 139.13-14
[36] Cf. Jer 1.5
[37] Pope Benedict XVI. Opening Address to World Youth Day 2011

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