In our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah we hear the Lord getting into it with Shebna – the steward of the house. It would seem he has not been doing his job well and so the Lord is going to pull him down from his office and give it to Eliakim – his responsibilities and his power. I notice in this reading – there is an expectation that things be done according to the direction of the Lord – that the steward be a real steward, providing for the people.
In the Gospel, we hear Jesus pose two questions to the disciples, “what are people saying about me? and “Who do you say I am?” Peter responds and his response is a response rooted in God’s grace. Peter knows what he knows not because of his own human wisdom. He gives a response that is prompted by the grace of God. We are then told of the faithfulness of God. God will give him the keys of the Kingdom and will have his back forever. Grace is the foundation for everything Peter is to do.
There is an interesting twist to this story. Jesus does not want the people to know what Peter knows. It would seem that the people are not ready to hear the full truth about who Jesus is.
In our second reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans, Paul reminds the early Christians of the power and wisdom of God. It is impossible for people to fully understand and appreciate the wisdom of God.
As I sat with these readings it struck me that as Christians we sometimes get confused about who we are and what we are to do. We make claims about who we are and what our obligations are without checking them against sacred scripture, against the mind and heart of God.
We make claims about who God is and what God does without really paying attention to God at all. We create God in our own image and likeness and we tell people God will do this and that when in fact it is our own selves who would do this or that. The bottom line being, we don’t really know God at all.
When we speak of God, when we speak about Jesus what do we say about him? What kind of language do we use to describe God? It is important for us to listen to what others are saying about God but ultimately, we have to answer the question too! What are we going to say, when Jesus says to us, “Who do you say that I am?”
What we most often get wrong about God is the generosity of God. The God we often talk about and proclaim is harsh and unforgiving, picky, narrow minded and local. We want our God to help us win against the other!
In the time of Jesus, the religious leaders of the day spoke about the Messiah as someone who would come and liberate them from the Romans – a messiah who was going to make Israel great again – powerful, rich, bigger and better than everyone else. A messiah who would destroy their enemies and install them at the top of pile. They did not expect Jesus and his call to love God AND neighbour. They thought that the messiah would be a King, born in a palace not a cave, a King who would rule not serve, a King who would help the people fight and conquer their enemies with force, a King who would have his feet washed, not wash the feet of the poor.
Jesus was not what they expected! Jesus is not what we expect!
When viewed together, all of the scriptures we hear today tell us that on the one hand it is not easy to understand God/Jesus while on the other hand they tell us God/Jesus cares for us and cares about us. The scriptures give us a clue about who God is and who we are.
From Isaiah we are made to understand clearly that our God wants us to be stewards – we are to take care of one another – we are responsible for each other – we are to be Father like. In other words, we don’t take care of ourselves first and then care for others. We are to provide for those around us – that is what good stewards/fathers do.
From the gospel we are made to understand that God is faithful. God showers us with grace – with wisdom. We need to allow that grace to influence us so that what we are building flows from our relationship with God – from a place of love and kindness and not hatred and selfishness.
From Paul we are reminded that our natural tendencies often lead us away from God. When we act on our own, without God we do things that are at odds with the heart and mind of God. Paul encourages us to take on the mind and heart of Jesus, to do the hard work of understanding and appreciating who our God is.
This week I encourage you to sit down and write down who Jesus is for you. What does your Jesus do? What do you let Jesus do in the world and in your own life? You claim to be a Catholic – a Christian! People turn to you and are relying on you to teach them something about Jesus – what do you have to say?
Sometimes we get the impression that it is enough for us to show up at Church, receive the Body of Christ and everything will be ok! Sometimes we put so much effort into getting the Body of Christ that we fail to discover who Jesus really is. Coming to Church every Sunday is not a bad thing to do! As your pastor I encourage you to do that. However, the other six days of the week are important to. What you do then matters a lot!
While we are busy with many things, going to school, working, caring for children/parents, volunteering and ‘holidaying’, we ought to find a little time to nurture our relationship with God, with Jesus! It is hard to do what Jesus wants if we do not know Jesus, who he is and what is important to him.
If Jesus walked up to you and said, “Who do you say that I am?” would you have an answer? Take some time this week and think about what you might say. Be sure to use your head and your heart, your body, and your spirit – let the Spirit of God within you speak. Let grace inform your thoughts, your words, and your actions.
Fr. Doug Jeffrey, OMI