24th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

     Is 50: 5-9 / PS 116: 1-6, 8-9 / Jm 21:14-18 / Mk 8:27-35

     “Who do you say that I am?” It’s a question that all of us either have had to answer or will certainly have to answer in our lives. That most fundamental question stared me straight in the face at the end of my junior year of high school, when seemingly out of nowhere, while I was on a retreat, the idea of becoming a priest popped into my mind. To be honest, I was looking forward to college and a successful career, so priesthood was about the last thing I wanted. Yet the more I tried to dismiss the idea of becoming a priest, the stronger the call became. With the idea of priesthood refusing to leave my mind I found myself in a very similar position to the apostles in today’s Gospel.

     I grew up in a very Catholic family, my parents took me to Mass everyday, we prayed together as a family every night, and it was just taken for granted that we would be faithful Catholics. Yet I have to admit that while I grew up in a Catholic family I had never really truly answered Jesus’ most basic question, “who do you say that I am.” I believed Jesus was God, I believed the Church and the basics of our faith, but it was at the moment when I was facing the idea of becoming a priest that I was first truly challenged to move from complacency to firm resolve, in answering that most basic question. You see while I didn’t want to be a priest, I knew deep down that if Jesus was really the Son of God, who came to suffer, die and rise that you and I might have eternal life then the only logical choice is to follow the call of Him who loves me so deeply.

     For nights on end I laid awake at night asking myself the most fundamental question of our faith, who is Jesus. I knew Jesus claimed to be God, but did I believe Him? As I wrestled with that question I realized either Jesus must really be who He says He is or this is the world’s greatest fraud. I then asked myself is it really possible that 11 simple village people could somehow start a religion based off of some crazy son of a carpenter? Could a religion with that grounding really immediately spread across the globe, through the witness of people who were willing to die for the faith? If Jesus was not who He said He is, how could the Church have survived over 2,000 years, outliving many powerful empires that sought to destroy her and today boast over 2 billion believers? Friends I could go on hours explaining how I was able to come to answer with Peter, you are the Christ, the son of the living God, but the real challenge came only after I answered that Jesus is the Christ the son of God, because confessing Jesus’ divinity requires that our lives reflect that statement.

     While I had come to believe Jesus was who He said He was, living my life with faith seemed impossible. Sure I had a head knowledge of who Jesus was but I could not find a way to transfer that knowledge to my heart. It was only when I finally let go and simply said, if my mind has come to this knowledge then I need to just live my Christian faith, that my faith really became integrated into who I was as a person. I learned the simple less, that if we want to have that faith we have to just go for it.

     When I was in first grade my swim coach decided it was time for me to learn how to swim the fly events. Now for those of you who are not familiar with swimming, swimming the butterfly stroke legally requires that your feet stay together as you kick for the whole race. Well to teach me how to keep my feet together these coaches pulled me out of the water, sat me in a chair, tied my feet together then threw me off the chair into the deep end of the pool. While it was not the most pretty sight [I don’t suggest you use it as a teaching method], and I bobbed up and down for a while, with the help of the coaches in the pool I survived and went on very quickly to learn to how swim with my feet together. So too in our faith life; sometimes we just need to jump off the deep end. Will we bob up and down for a while? Perhaps, but the Church and our parish will be there to help keep us from sinking and in no time at all we will be moving forward with a life of faith at lightning speed.

     Friends Jesus puts a very simple question to us today when he asks us who do you say that I am. The evidence is overwhelming, but are we willing to profess with St. Peter, that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God. You see once we make that profession, we have to then jump in the deep end and begin to live out our faith, recognizing that “one aspect of becoming a Christian is having to leave behind what everyone else thinks and wants, the prevailing standard, in order to enter the light of the truth of our being and aided by that light to find the right path.”[1]

[1] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Jesus of Nazareth Part II. San Francisco: Ignatius Press,2011. Pg. 67.

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