Today Jesus looks at his closest disciples – after being together a couple of years – and says, “Who do people say I am?” – and then – “Who do you say I am?”
This question is of course intended for us too. He looks at all of us who call ourselves His followers – Christians – and repeats the same question ...
Do you know me?
What makes this gospel so important for us is that it points out what our faith is really all about. It’s about a relationship. It’s about knowing Jesus. Christianity is not an institution; it’s a relationship with a person. To be a Christian is to stand before Jesus and answer his question – Do you know me? Who do you say I am?
Do you know him?
When Jesus asked Peter and the other apostles those questions, they had been traveling from town to town, for many months. Peter and the others had left behind their regular lives. They made a huge commitment and effort to get to know Jesus because they recognized something remarkable in Him.
Think for a minute about the things they saw – over those months.
- They saw him heal people of leprosy, blindness and being paralyzed.
- They saw him raise a widow’s son from the dead and bring Jairus' daughter back to life.
- They saw him calmed a violent storm on the Sea of Galilee with a command
- They helped as he fed thousands of people in the middle of nowhere from a couple of loaves of bread.
My guess is they had more than a few late night discussions around the camp fire talking about this question of who Jesus was. But Jesus didn’t want to know what they thought about his miracles. He wanted to know if they knew Him.
When Peter answered him and said, "You the Son of the living God;" Jesus said something we all need to think about.
What He didn’t say was: “Good for you Peter, you figured this out on you own. No, he said, "Blessed are you, Simon. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” It wasn’t Simon Peter’s powers of observation or Simon Peter’s brilliant mind that allowed him to know who Jesus was; it was a gift from God the Father.
Faith is a gift.
The spiritual insight God gave Simon Peter was a gift. St. Paul once said, "no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’, except by the Holy Spirit." We must have the help of the Holy Spirit, who opens the eyes of the mind and heart, who makes it possible for us to accept and believe the truth. That doesn’t mean Peter’s faith that Jesus was the Son of God was a blind faith. It was grounded in reason, rooted in his experiences of that year. God put an understanding of who Jesus was on Peter's heart through what he witnessed.
We don’t have the advantage the apostles had of being first-hand witnesses of Jesus’ life. But we do have their witness – the story of salvation history – the Bible. Do we make an effort to get to know him in the Bible? Do we travel with him in the Bible?
We also have the benefit of seeing living witnesses, other followers of Jesus; those canonized by the Church, and those quietly leading lives of faith, like many of our mothers and fathers. These are our witnesses, who so often lead us to faith in Jesus. Lead us to recognize who Jesus is. Ultimately each of us has the experience of Peter. If we seek to know him, our heavenly Father reveals to our hearts the truth about Jesus. Some Christian’s call that moment of recognition a “born again” experience; that moment of insight – that Ah Ha moment – when faith begins. That moment when we come to a place where reason can take us no further and God puts the truth on our hearts.
Jesus tells us today; faith is something we receive. It’s a gift from our heavenly Father, through the workings of the Holy Spirit. And like any gift, the gift of faith needs to be accepted to receive it. This faith – this gift – is often passed on to us from our parents like a family heirloom that we treasure, protect, and hopefully pass on ourselves. This gift of faith is a gift we are called to give away.
Our Catholic faith isn’t meant to be a private thing – me and God. Being a Christian – being “Church” – is supposed to be a relationship. One of the great insights of our Church is that all of us who believe are members of the Body of Christ. We are the physical representation of Christ in this world. The Church is the body through which Christ manifests His life to the world today. When Jesus asks us – “Do you know me? He is asking us, do you know each other? Are you one body? Do you live in love, and help each other as I modeled in my life?
While our relationship with Christ is personal, God never intends it to be private.
This parish – St. Brigid – is trying to become a parish of friends rather than a parish of strangers; to become the Body of Christ. If Jesus himself disguised as a layperson visited St. Brigid if he sat somewhere in the middle, would he feel welcomed, loved, and necessary?
Jesus in the Gospel asks each of us today, “Do you know me?” And so does Jesus who sits next to you in the Body of Christ ask, “Do you know me?” Let’s become a parish that says – YES Lord.
We begin to know each other when we share our stories.
In that spirit, I want to start by telling you a bit about me.
I am a husband to Linda for 42 years this weekend. I am a father to four wonderful children, who have given me six beautiful grandchildren. I spent 25 years of my life building a retail business – until I got cancer – 20 years ago I almost died. Those events changed my life and led to me becoming a deacon.
My passion in life is helping children born into poverty, helping them break the cycle of poverty through education. I have been blessed to be part of helping found two fantastic schools – The Monarch School for homeless kids; and Nativity Prep Academy a free Catholic college access program in the inner-city. Recently I’ve been asked to help to found a new Catholic high school - Cristo Rey high school. Cristo Rey Schools are Catholic schools that offer a college prep education to impoverish kids. The unique feature of this school is that the students all work in corporate American one day a week to earn money to pay their tuition.
I’d love to share more of my story with anyone who cares to know. I’d love to know your story. We need to know each other’s story so that we can answer the question Jesus asks today ... Do you know me?
Help us become the kind of parish where we know Jesus because we know his body. Let’s share our lives so that we can say ... YES, Lord ... we know you.