Thursday, August 17, 2017

No Boundaries to God's love, 20 Sunday of Ordainary Time


God will surprise us every time. He will always set the record straight. Every time we think we know him or his plan of salvation he shows us we are thinking too narrow or too small. Every time we want to limit him by our own limitations. When we want to own him, define him, or box him up.
Every time we forget the expansiveness of his kingdom and the universality of the Children of God.

  Isaiah describes this universality in the first reading. God’s kingdom (he says) is not closed off to all but a few. It is open and inviting to all who love justice and strive do what is right. The Kingdom is not a fortress keeping people out but a Holy Mountain where humble offerings and true sacrifices, of all people, even the unacceptable, will be accepted. 
“For my house”, says the Lord, “shall be a house of prayer for all people”.

  In today’s Gospel Jesus travels towards Tyre and Sidon. These are not Jewish cities. They are Phoenician Canaanite cities on the coast of the Mediterranean, up north near Lebanon, and certainly beyond the borders of Israel. It is important to know that if the Samaritans were looked down upon and despised by the Jews, at least they worshiped (in their own way) the God of Abraham. But, the Canaanites were the ancient, bitter enemy, from the earliest days of Joshua crossing into the land of Cana. The Canaanites fought back and had nothing to do with the God of Israel. They worshiped Baal.

We do not know the reason Jesus travels towards Phoenician territory.But, we do know that a Canaanite woman (of that territory) comes out to meet Jesus. We know she is a desperate mother who must have tried everything to help her daughter, who we are told, was tormented by demons.
Having run out of reasonable options the mother now turned to the unreasonable, an itinerant

Jewish rabbi. As a Canaanite what could she possibly know of Jesus? Had the stories of Jesus’

wondrous healing travelled that far?  Did she know he was coming? Whatever the reason, this

mother hoped that Jesus could help her daughter.

 The question that must of haunted her though was - would he?

 When she meets Jesus on the open road she addresses him as “Lord, Son of David”.
This is not a Canaanite greeting. She was being more than respectful. Clearly she is referring to the

Jewish messiah, the true but hidden king of Israel who, in the words of the prophet - Who would

bind up the injured and heal the sick. This is what she hoped Jesus to do for her daughter.

But, despite her distress and sincerity Jesus is silent and his disciples ask Him to send this Gentile woman away for she is bothering them.

 This prompts Jesus to try ease the situation and clarify his position.
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel”.

Think of it, Jesus, at that time, has a limited vision of his father’s sovereignty and even his own mission. Because, Jesus was still growing into perfect understanding of his father and his own son-ship.

The desperate mother, (and what mother would not be desperate to save her child from torment) does not take no for an answer and she falls to the ground and does Jesus homage crying out, as if a prayer, “Lord, help me”. Jesus, unsettled by her boldness, again ties to explain.

“It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs”

Now, the persistent mother teaches the teacher saying, Please Lord, even dogs eat the scraps that fall from the master’s table. This catches Jesus by surprise. It was one of those ah-ha moments when in an instant vision changes and the horizon expands.

When Jesus least expects it; because he is not in solitary prayer or teaching in the synagogue, but rather on a dusty road, face to face with a rather persistent gentile woman, he realizes that everything everywhere, is possible for God.

In this moment of encounter with the other, Jesus grasps the radical scope of his father’s sovereignty and his own expanded mission of proclaiming the Good News. Mercy, Forgiveness and Salvation is not just for the lost sheep of Israel, but for all the lost sheep of every nation. Every person matters to God.

Yes, the children are fed first, but it does not mean that the dogs do not eat at all. God, nor the Word of God, is not the exclusive property of a few, but the loving sovereign of all of creation. And His kingdom is not walled off, but wide open. His banquet table can sit the world.

  In the end Jesus is moved by her faith.
“O, woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”

And it was done. Healing love was prompted by unthinkable and persistent faith.
This unacceptable, pagan woman, showed Jesus, and us, how radical God and his saving plan is.

It is grander that we can every imagine.

So we must resist limiting God by our own limitations.
We must resist thinking that our image of God is God.

And must remember (even when we least want to) just how expansive and inclusive God’s kingdom is, how universal is his forgiveness, mercy and love.
There are no boundaries nor borders either for persistent faith or healing love.

 

 

 

 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Let us Not Be Hard or Sharp Things


We still use elements of the parable every time we use similes, analogies and metaphors, in our own story telling.  We try to highlight a true or surprising or even a hidden quality of something by comparing it to something else that isn’t the same, but has elements in common. It often takes the form “it is like”

 The dawn is like rosy fingers, his habits are like a night owls, wool is like snow, work is like

drowning in paper, love is like a rose or a heart is as cold as ice.

The New Testament scholar C.H. Dodd says of Jesus

“He used metaphor or simile drawn from nature or the common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in the sufficient doubt of its precise application to tease it into active thought”
 How often was Jesus asked? Where is the Kingdom of God? What does it look like? When is it coming?

Can you really answer the unanswerable? Can you describe the indescribable?

But, trying to answer these questions, by “teasing the mind of the listener into active thought” as Dodd suggests, is the heart of all of Jesus’ parables.

What is the Kingdom of Heaven?

“Well, Jesus would say “the Kingdom of Heaven is like”.

Even the Son of God, could say the only thing you could say about the inexpressible transcendence of the Kingdom of Heaven - that it was like something else, more familiar and experienced; leaven, a lamp, a pearl, a hidden treasure, an vineyard, an owner of a vineyard, a forgiving father, a good Samaritan, a mustard seed, a fishing net, and so on.

When is the Kingdom coming? Jesus says, only the Father knows, but it will come unexpected like a thief in the night or like the unannounced return of the master.

Jesus also used the parable to say something about his own mystery; I am like a good shepherd , or like the gate to the sheep fold, I am like a vine, I am the bread of life, I am living water, I am like poured out wine, I am like the grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies so as to produce much fruit.

 The common thread of all Gospel Parables is the hidden and multilayered invitation to faith in Jesus, belief in the Good News he preached and the transforming reality of the Kingdom of God, which he himself had ushered in. Of course, they are all one in the same.

Today we hear Jesus teaching the crowd about the coming Kingdom of God, using the parable of the sower who casts seed onto the ground.

The seed is assumed good and the casting is generous. We are told that some seed fell on poor soil and failed to take root. Some fell on marginal soil and was overcome by weeds, and thistles. And some seed fell on good soil where it produces in great abundance. One hundredfold we are told.

Many listening would hear an echo from the book of Ezra

“For just as the farmer sows many seeds upon the ground and plants a multitude of seedlings, not all that have been sown will come upon due season and not all that were planted will take root, so all who have been sown in the world will not be saved”

In an agricultural world, the listeners would get that regardless of the quality of seed and the diligence of the sower, it still did not guarantee a good harvest.  There are other variables and obstacles to overcome.

Some of those listening to Jesus might have then thought to themselves.
The heart is like the land, varied and diverse. Sometimes open and inviting, sometimes stubborn and unforgiving. And like the land the heart, needs to be loved, cared for, cultivated and nurtured. 

But, again like the land, the heart resists and fights back.
“Some have ears, but do not hear and some have eyes but do not see” Jesus said.

 This is the painful mystery of faith.
We can hear but do not recognize the voice. We can see, but only what we (or the world) wants us to see. Untended we lay fallow and prefer being dry and barren to flourishing and fruitfulness.

We ourselves can be the hard and sharp things, obstacles to the harvest.
But, the heart of this parable is not what we are like, but what God is like -

“Thus says the Lord; just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful . . . So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth, shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it”.

 In God’s merciful love the season of planting and harvesting comes around again and again. What seems futile and hopeless will come to pass.
The hard path and the rocky soil will become the furrowed field. The harvest promised will be harvest fulfilled and fulfilled beyond our imagination.
Simply said - what God promises, God will do and the good seed will continue to be sown by he who loves us till the end of time.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Bread of Life; Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ


Bread is a staple for much of the world.  Bread sustains the body and good bread lightens the spirit. We all know that to have homemade bread and wine on the table is a very good thing.

Bread is bread, but it also a process that begins with planting seed, cultivating, harvesting and refining grain.  Bread is brought to life by mixing and kneading by human hands. It becomes itself when baked in an oven. And finally bread is offered up (in communion and fellowship) to family and friends at the table where it is broken, shared and eaten.

 Stretching the metaphor of bread helps reveal the breath and depth of Jesus; planted (so to speak) at the incarnation by the Holy Spirit, cultivated by a life of selfless love for us and obedience to God, harvested and fired through his passion. And forever broken and shared through his resurrection, the Holy Spirit, and the Church, and most significantly in the Eucharist itself.

 In today’s Gospel Jesus uses the rich metaphor of bread to contrasts who God was thought to be and who God is. Jesus contrasts manna (the first bread from heaven) with the Son of Man (who is the true bread from heaven).  Jesus tells the crowd that unlike the manna which sustained life, but could not stop death, true bread from heaven gives eternal life.

And the crowd, cries out - show us a sign. Give us this bread.

 Unlike the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 Jesus doesn't do anything. He does not bring down mana like dew frost. He does not produce loaves out of thin air, his does not turn water. into wine. He says - I am this bread come down from heaven.

We know what Jesus can do. He healed the sick by forgiving sins, he freed the prisoners of suffering. Jesus could certainly produce bread to satisfy hunger, and wine to quench thirst.

He had done it all before.

 But, we also remember the words from scripture - man does not live by bread alone, but only by the word of God, or do not work for food that parishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.

Jesus, the Word of God still hidden, now reveals that this living bread come down from heaven is his flesh, and his blood. What is more, he tells the astounded crowd that unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you will not have life.

Standing before the grumbling crowd Jesus is literally offering himself up. The Word of God, is offering his incarnated being, his very real flesh and blood, to be given up and poured out for the life of the world. His life for ours. Not a swap, but consummation. This is how the temporal becomes eternal.

And we are told by the Lord himself that to share in his eternal life we must share in his giving up and out pouring, not by simply believing, but by eating his body and drinking his blood. We must, by his invitation, be radically and forever mingled and mixed, like bread itself.

Jesus tells us that we must eat and drink of his body and blood because he knows that this Eucharistic communion is always mutual, relational and transformative. This is the difference between the old experience of God and the new reality that is God.

Manna was bread, not God. Those who ate manna, did not become manna. Manna did not stop death. There was a separation between God and man which could never be overcome by offering up the first fruits or following the Law.

 But, the incarnation changed everything. Now, Jesus, the giver of the bread of life is the bread of life. He is giver and gift. And in consuming this gifted bread (his body and blood) we ourselves in some real measure become bread.

Whoever eats this body and drinks this blood remains in me and I remain in them, Jesus says.

 And so with Jesus there is no separation. God is no longer somewhere else.  God who is transcendent and unknowable, through the incarnation becomes God with us, and through the Eucharist God, who is still transcendent, still with us, becomes the indwelling God.

This is radically new. This makes all things new.

 Through body and blood. In Truth and Spirit we are forever changed. How can we not be changed. What we eat, at the table of the Lord, does not become us, we become it.

We could truthfully say we are consumed by the body and blood of Christ.

 We become gifted bread; planted in faith and hope, cultivated through discipleship, refined through active love, fired in the Spirit, nourished by the Eucharist.

And in the end we become bread to be broken and shared for, and with, others.

 This is what Jesus is telling the crowd, that it is in the Eucharist that we become Eucharistic, one bread, one body, one Spirit, one life for the salvation of the world.

 

 

 

 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Spirit is coming, 6th Sunday of Easter


They remembered that it had been an uneasy and foreboding night.
They remembered being afraid of the future. What are we to do without the Lord they said to each other.
Thomas remembered that he had said to Jesus " we do not know where you are going. We do not know the way"
He also remembered, and he reminded the others, that Jesus had answered saying - I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life."
And now, gathered together, after the horror of the crucifixion and mysterious glory of the resurrection they remembered Jesus’ promise of another Advocate. And they would learn that this Advocate would be for them nothing less than the ongoing presence of Jesus.
Another, remembered that Jesus had reassured them - “I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you”
Yes, Lord come back to us, they said, but how will we know you?
Jesus answers, not with a description, but with a direction, You will know me by your actions.
And now they remembered
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments"
And they all remembered Jesus revealing to them.
"This is my commandment, love one another, as I have loved you."
Which simply says - If you love me, you will love one another.
Or in the negative - if you do not love one another you do not love me.
There is a clear correlation between loving others, as he did, and loving him.
They had experienced, through all the Jesus said and did, that to truly love is to love justly and in truth, without judgement, restrictions or boarders. And it is always to love beyond ones capabilities.
They might of cried out, "How can we do this a Lord. How can we love like you, you who loves like the Father loves. We are incapable and fearful to even try."
Do not be afraid “whoever believes in me will do the works that I do.
Whatever you ask in my name, I will do.
And do not be afraid, when I go my Father will send you another advocate."
This advocate is rightly called another.  Because, only by Jesus going to his Father was the second Advocate sent. The Spirit reminds us that Jesus himself is our first  advocate.
It is Jesus, God with us. Jesus the Word come into the world. Who's life, death and resurrection saved us and continues to save us. It is Jesus who now sits at the Father's right hand to plead our case unceasingly. He is our first advocate.
This new advocate is not the Word made flesh, but the Spirit of Truth, the peace Jesus left for us. Who teaches us all things, helps us to remember all things, and who makes Jesus himself present to us.
But, the world does not accept the Spirit of Truth, because it accepts only its own illusions and lies.
 It does not know the Spirit, because it only knows and accepts; power and wealth, fear and hatred, injustice and oppression. It does not know and accept the Spirit of Truth because it has forgotten what Truth looks like, what Life looks like, what the Way to God looks like.
But, we know and accept the Spirit. Because, we have seen the Holy Spirit remaining with us in the Church, the People of God and her sacraments. We have experienced the work of the Spirit in us, through our our own transformation, our own prayers and our own deeds of love.
 And most of all, through, and in the Holy Spirit, Jesus is present to us and if Jesus is present then God is present. 
"You will realize" Jesus says "that I am in my Father and you are in me and I am in you"
This indwelling unity is the truth the world cannot accept, because it does not want to. It does not want to, because it does not want to keep the Lord's commandments to love one another. Where is the profit in that, the world laughs.
But, we love the world. Because the Spirt of Truth, the Holy Spirit, is in us.
Reminding us, teaching us, strengthening us to do the work of love without weighing the benefits or counting the cost.
And in the doing the work of love, the Spirit reveals Jesus to us, making him present to us, drawing us to him. The Spirit says; this is the only Truth, the only Way, and the only Life. And we say Amen.

It is only in the intimate and transforming reality of the Spirit, that we are capable of keeping Jesus' commandment to love one another (even the unlovable).

 And when we love others, we love Jesus' and we love Jesus, we are loved by God.

 

 

 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Easter





We are Easter people. Our faith is grounded in the Risen Lord.
In the transforming light of the resurrection we are are bathed in Truth.
And Truth has sent us free.
Not free from care and concern for others.
Not free from the responsibilities of discipleship in it widest application.
But, set free from the bondage of the sin of the world. Free from fear and death.
Free to do the acts of love that imperfectly mirror and reflect what we heard Peter, confess in the first reading.
God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and he went about doing good.
 Peter's humble phrase describing the works of Jesus as "doing good" captures the saving totality of the  Paschal Mystery; Jesus' life, death and resurrection.

Peter goes on to say with equal simplicity, "they" (describing the fearful principalities and the hateful powers) put him to death.
But, we know, experience and celebrate, that the horror of injustice, torture and death was overcome, once and for all, because as Peter (filled by the Spirit) proclaims, God raised Jesus on the third day.
This is why we are here today.

 But, in the darkness of the first day of the week, it was Mary of Magdala that came to the tomb, in the heavy gloom that seemed to mirror their sadness, confusion and lack of faith.
In that dim cold light of dawn she saw the stone, that had sealed the tomb, rolled aside. She did not go in, but she had a troubling sense that the body had been stolen and so she ran to those disciples still in hiding, still reeling from the horror of the crucifixion.
She ran to Peter, the bearer of authority and John, the beloved disciple and told them what she had found and what she feared.

Peter and the other disciple (still unbelievers) ran to the tomb, the younger man, with what seems to be a greater urgency to know, gets there first, but he does not enter, rather he waited and let the senior man enter the tomb first.

Peter, sees that the body is gone. The burial cloths neatly placed. And with a detail that must have come from that very moment and held dear in the reselling, the cloth used to cover Jesus' head was set aside, neatly folded up in a separate place.
 Not only was the tomb empty, but the trappings of death were also empty.
 The Risen Jesus would have no need of them.
And besides anyone stealing a body would surly have left it wrapped for speed and ease of movement. No thieves would take the time and effort.

 It is interesting, and surprising, given Peter's rash character, that his reactions to the empty tomb are not revealed.
But, when the other disciple enters and sees the same evidence, the Gospel says - he believed. For him the experience of the empty tomb was not troubling at all. It was the first seed of faith. It was Imperfect and without understanding, but it had been sown.

Perfecting faith would only come in time, with real encounters with the Risen Jesus, the coming of the Holy Spirit who would teach them all things and who would enliven their lives and through a new Spirit driven understanding of scripture.
We know that upon hearing the good, but utterly unbelievable news, the twelve were still unsure, torn and fearful. Each heart racing with mixed emotions and opinions as to what it all meant. For them the peace of Christ and love of God, communion with the Holy Spirit was still to come.

But, on that day, for the beloved disciple, the empty tomb was the first sign that death had been defeated. God's light had vanquished death's darkness. Jesus had been raised. All that he said and did had be ratified by God. Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ.
At Easter we celebrate this saving truth; Jesus, God's beloved son, lived among us, healed, forgave sins, loved us until the end. He was unjustly put to death, and on the third day is Risen and Glorified.

So, beginning with today, let the Easter Mystery transform our lives.
 Let it be a new invitation to encounter the Risen Lord; in prayer, the sacraments, by doing the next good thing, through others and always, when we least expect it.
Rejoice and be glad. It is Easter and we find ourselves also risen to a new life.
 Alleluia, alleluia.

 

 

 

 

 
 
















Tuesday, March 21, 2017

3rd Sunday of Lent


We are human beings. Living creatures dependent in so many ways on the world around us.
Many of us live with abundance of what we need and even what we desire.
Many live with adequate means of existence. But, the sin of the world is far too many live in want of the most basic needs that sustain and nourish body and spirit.

Our bodies need of food and water. A person can live perhaps up to a month with food.
This same person would likely parish in a week without water. The body is, of course, how we engage the world and reach out to each other. The body is that important.

We know Jesus took the body and its needs seriously. He enjoyed a good wedding, he healed by touching, he washed the feet of the twelve, he walked town to town, wept when moved, broke bread when hungry, drank wine when thirsty and rested when tired.

But, we are not just bodies, we are also spirit.

We have a biological reality, but we go beyond this, because we are persons, creatures that are self-aware and questioning. Where did I come from? Why Am I here? Where am I going? What does it mean?
We do not just enjoy the good and endure the suffering, we ask; what is good, why is there suffering?
We are temporal beings living moment to moment bound by the present. Yet, given our memory we can revisit and even re-interpret the past. In hope and imagination we can already live in future.
As persons we desire the abstract good, what cannot be found in physical nature; friendship, happiness, fulfillment and love.

We all know by our human experience that we are entwined as body and spirit. Theologians say we are inspirited bodies and embodied spirits.

The simple truth is body and spirit are inseparable and both need to be sustained and nourished to thrive, develop and reach fulfillment. And when either the body or the spirit is diminished or dimmed, broken or starved both suffer. Yet, knowing this we service and nourish the body while neglecting the spirit.

 This is why the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan women begins with a
mis-understanding. She's is simply taking care of the ordinary business of the day, getting water for the body. But today she meets, by chance, a stranger who is simply resting.

We know she is "the other", poor, a women and Samaritan. I imagine she was a first trying to ignore this stranger.  And perhaps, was startled and even annoyed when this Jew asks her for a drink.
She responds defensively (because for much of her life, as the marginalized other, the she had to be). So with an uneasy sharpness she replies “how can you a male Jew ask me a Samaritan woman for a drink?”

Even in her prickly response, this chance encounter, buried in the ordinary, which began clouded by the cultural, gender and political differences begins to open up.
Jesus never needs much of an opening. She expects a rebuke and a certain meanness would seem natural to her. But, Jesus offers an invitation instead, a bridge that changes an everyday, unpleasant situation, into a moment of revelation and grace.

 A meeting at a well, on a hot day, opens up a new reality for the woman.
 And this new reality was the concreate presence of God. Not in Jerusalem and not on the holy mountain, but at a well in Samaria, in the chance encounter with a stranger.  And we know this stranger is Jesus. And he offers her more than courtesy and politeness. He was offering her God’s Holy Spirit – true life giving water.

The women, like us all, in many of our own everyday encounters, assumes to know what’s up and she acts without thinking based on those assumptions.
“How can you give me water, the well is deep and you don't have a bucket?” she says.

Jesus tells her that this doesn’t matter because the water from the well can only satisfy the thirst of the body. But, it cannot end thirsting, either of the body or the spirit. And in that moment, through a stranger, everything changes and the woman, who had known only the possible, but now experiences the impossible.

Jesus' invitation turns years of hurt, disappointment empty longing into unexpected relationship, unconditional love and divine presence.  Give me "this" water she implores.
And Jesus gives her this spiritual water by revealing; in his presence, actions and words, that in encounter him, she has encountered God. Not far off and distant, but even here, by a well in Samaria.

Stunned, with faith newly awakened, she says (not unlike a Peter himself) I know the Christ is coming and he is Truth. And this tired stranger replies simply, but with all the love in the world - I am he.

From that moment, she knew who was speaking. Her embodied spirit and inspirited body was relieved by faith and hope, from its thirst for goodness and truth. 

This is a long multi part Gospel, but her story ends, as many Gospel stories end, with the woman, newly heal and now alive, testifying to others and bringing those others to Jesus who is life giving water and the bread of life.

There are many lessons here.
But for me, what began as a chance encounter, on an ordinary day, in ordinary circumstances, which began in mistrust, suspicion and ignorance was transformed by openness and trust into a moment of understanding and conversion, healing of body and spirit.
An encounter with a stranger led to an encounter with God.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Know about or Know; 12th Sunday


You could say it is a question of life or death. It is certainly a life changing question. It has to be.
There is no other way. It is a question that can only be answered in truth and honesty. It is useless
to lie or pretend.

And our answer can only come from freedom. It can’t be made for you. It cannot be forced. It will do no good to follow the crowd or take the pulse of popular opinion. All other choices flow from the one fundamental answer to “Who do you say I am?"

 Who is Jesus was a hot topic. This question was ask and argued about everywhere; in the
courtyards, the synagogues, the roadsides and the taverns. Who was Jesus, this man from
Nazareth? Son of Mary and Joseph. Was he a teacher, healer, or prophet, a troublemaker or the
messiah? And if the messiah, then what kind of messiah is this man of forgiveness and peace?

 A lot of people knew about Jesus, certainly the Romans and the temple authorities knew about him. They had heard the stories. But, knowing about something is not the same as knowing something. I know about the Amazon rain forrest, but I have never been there. I have not experienced its heat, its closeness and sounds.  We can know about parenting, but unless you are a parent you really don't know its dynamics and inner workings. We can read poems about love, but unless we love we know precious little. Ideas and words are grand, but experience is the king.

 This distinction between knowing about and knowing is what makes Jesus' question critical to our lives. Knowing about Jesus changes nothing, but knowing Jesus changes all.  Because knowing is experience and experience is transforming.  Experience becomes a part of us.

 The conversion from knowing about Jesus to knowing Jesus is what happened to the disciples and those who were touched by Jesus' words and actions.  It is what happened when the sinful women, who knew about Jesus, came to the Pharisees house where Jesus was dinning and experienced directly his forgiveness and mercy.   In that moment of grace and transforming love her knowing about Jesus became knowing Jesus. It was conversion and it changed her forever.

 So when Jesus asks Peter who do you say I am, he certainly is not asking him what have you heard about me. Jesus already knew the rumors, opinions and speculations. Jesus is not asking Peter his opinion, or what his thoughts are on the topic.

Opinions are shallow notions, they come and go and they change nothing, but our dinner conversations. But, what we know from experience remains a part of us, gets into us, affects who we are.

Jesus is asking Peter - what is your experience of me. What is it about that experience that cannot be forgotten or denied? Have you changed, Peter? Where is your heart and mind?

Of course, Peter’s answer, as does our own answer, tells us more about Peter and ourselves then it does about Jesus. The answer reveals who we are. At least at that moment.

In the first reading the prophet Zachariah proclaims that God, who Israel no longer knows, will still pour grace upon Israel, but only after they have rejected and pierced him.  Israel's knowledge of God will come only after they recognize who God is.

When they come to know the Messiah and know he comes not as retribution and vengeance, but as forgiveness and love. This new understanding and experience becomes the fountain of living water that will pour out a new spirit to purify lives and cleanse sins and soften hardened hearts.  Then they will proclaim, as Peter did when he answered Jesus’ question with “You are the Christ.”

 In the second reading Paul tells the Galatians that it is through faith that they become children of God. He reminds them they have gone beyond merely knowing about Jesus.
 And this experience of knowing Jesus, of being in Christ Jesus, St Paul calls it, begins in their

baptism. Through baptism they are made new and they are clothed in Christ, that is, they now

resemble Christ. And in reassembling Christ they are no longer many separated by race, gender, or

class.

 They now belong to Christ and they experience this belonging in the Holy Spirit and through their Faith, Hope and Charity.  And because they belong to the Lord Jesus they must do as the Lord commands them to do. And this is the hard part.

 Jesus reveals to Peter that the Son of Man, Jesus own term for himself, must first be misunderstood, feared and hated. He would suffer cruelty and even death.
He must be the grain of wheat that dies to give rise to the abundant harvest that is the Kingdom of

 God. Jesus is asking Peter do you want to be a part of this? Are you ready for what you must do?

Jesus then says (and this qualifier is important) to ALL.

 “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and pick up his cross daily. For who wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it."
This is illogical and unreasonable. How can anyone do this? How can I do this?

How can deny myself and follow Jesus, if I only know about him? He is only words on a page or in my head and not in my heart. If he is only a character in a story and not my Lord and Savior how can I take up the cross daily? How can I hand over my life to someone I don't know? How can I sacrifice anything, if I am not in love?

 The truth is, to follow Jesus, I must first come to know Jesus, experience in my life his forgiveness, and mercy.  Be touched and healed by his love. Challenged and enflamed by his words. I must come to know him through an ever deepening prayer life, in the sharing of the sacraments, and through fellowship with people of good will. I must come to know him in the kindness, patience and the generosity I show everyone.  I must come to know him in humility and service. It is only then that I can love him. It is only then that I can lay down my life for him and for the Kingdom of God.
It is only then that can I ever hope to answer his question, put directly to me “who do you say I

am?”