Who is it?: a reflection on this weeks gospel (Mat 16:13-20)

A marque quote for papal apologetics (a topic which I have already addressed) this week’s gospel also poses the question, “Who do you say I am?”: a question frequently answered though not always asked.

I personally find this question challenging. Who do I say Jesus is? I know the right answers – Lord, Messiah, the Christ, Rabbi, Saviour, teacher, master, friend, and many more. But who do I say he his?

Jesus calls me to a deeper and more personal relationship. He is all these things and he can be all things for all men all the time. But for each of us at different times our relationship with him will have a different slant. By this I mean that as we grow our perception of things will change and in this way Jesus will be different things to us at different times.

Having thought about this deeper than I had in many years I still am unsure. I do not say this out of a wilful ignorance nor of a lack of personal relationship (for that though there is still plenty of room). But nonetheless, I was no closer to finding who I say Jesus is for me at this time.

Given that Jesus is the head of the Church, which is his body, I looked at the way I most profoundly experience Jesus in the context of the church. Surprisingly I most profoundly experience Jesus in the sacrament of Reconciliation. I say “surprisingly” because I have a love for the Eucharist. Yet there have been moments in my life where I have gone to confession in tears (quite literally) and walked out on an emotional high.

This has shown me that I experience Jesus most as merciful Redeemer.

Even with this self awakening, it is not to the level of Peter’s proclamation “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” But I don’t think it has to be. To Peter he is one thing, to me another: neither of these are wrong nor contradictory.

Who is he to you? It really is a challenging question, but with the answer comes clarity. So again, who is he to you? 

   

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The Passion of Christ; the Compassionate God. (Holy Week)

The week that changed the world. 

The renewal, restoration and redemption of humanity. 

There are many descriptions for the most dramatic week the world has seen: the week most accurately observed as the Passion. And so this Sunday it begins; the renewal, the restoration, the redemption. Oh the humanity! 

As one who hopes for ordination into the diaconate at some unspecified and ambiguous future time, and as a lover of the Sacred Catholic Liturgy when done well (let’s not go there today), I know there is a beautiful line that the Deacon says in mass that many people don’t hear. The line expresses perfectly what this week is all about.

“By the mixing of this water and wine may we share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity”.

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Nothing more to be said really. There it is. Plain as day. But let’s have closer look at it.

It was God’s plan that we were made in the image and likeness of God. But without going through all salvation history – there was an apple, a snake, a flood, the temple, some exiling, the Romans, and here we are – God saw fit to correct our sins by sending us his Son. There are more scriptural references to this than to anything else. And many more writings of the Early Church Fathers, as is the significance of such a week. The restoration made possible by the passion of Jesus enables us to become in his image once again; one who walks with God in paradise. Redemption is made possible because of the atoning nature of Jesus’ self sacrifice. The debt has been repaid; through him all things can be made right again. “The truest sign of grace was this: from wounded hands redemption fell down, liberating man!” (Wholly Yours – David Crowder Band). Through restoration and redemption the renewal is made. In one fell swoop God intervenes in humanity like that not seen since creation: rightfully observed as a new creation.

But recreated as what?     

Because Jesus has made all things new through his death (and the resurrection) we can partake in heavenly things more fully. We can partake in the divinity of Christ more fully through the sacraments, and the Prime Sacrament, the Eucharist. During the liturgy we recognize the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Similarly, the wine after consecration becomes the blood of Christ; the blood through which we have redemption, the remission of sins (Eph 1:7; Col 1:14). But it is not only redemption and remission that the blood of Christ enables, it also unites believers for he makes peace by the blood of the cross (Col 1:20). United, redeemed, restored, renewed, forgiven. Praised be to God. 

But he didn’t just click his fingers and, Boom! All done! (Though he could have, as sterile, distant and heartless as it would have been.) God chose to be one of us, to feel like us, to do those things we do everyday. He even died like us. But He loved like God. He showed us so much, but his love for God underlined all he did. It is seen through his love for us. His love for us strengthened his in the hours of need. He thought of us while upon the cross. He thought of YOU. YOU were the one he was saving. YOU have had your sins forgiven. YOU he loves to death. Talk about  compassion! He who is divine shed his blood for your sake. He who is divine humbled himself so that you may share in his divinity.

In what ways can we share in his divinity? By following the examples of Christ are we compassionate to others? Not only compassionate, but are willing to sacrifice for them? For God? He died for you; what are you wiling to do for him? After all, there is the resurrection still to come! Do not be afraid to live for death, even death on a cross. It is always about the love of God, the loss of his Son’s life, and the lifting of the veil for all humanity. He has given you life! Live it!