Our faithful friend of the blog, Fr. Michael Schleupner, offered this homily a few weeks ago. It gives his personal reflection about his relationship with Jesus, providing a beautiful way to embrace our connection to Jesus too. Let’s take a few quiet moments to prayerfully read and reflect on our own journeys with God. Who do you say that Jesus is?
Peter declares that Jesus is the Christ, and Jesus teaches that those who would follow him must take up his or her cross.
“Who Do You Say That I Am?”
Imagine that Jesus asks us the question that he asks Peter today. “Who do you say that I am?” Or, we could ask it this way: “Who do I say that Jesus is?”
This is probably the central question that the gospels ask each one of us. I have thought about this quite a bit over the years. I answered this question one way in roughly the first twenty years of my life. But since then, I have come to answer it differently.
My First Twenty Years
Up until I was about twenty years old, I believed that Jesus was my Savior, but my idea of Savior was rather limited. It was basically what we say in the creed or Profession of Faith. For me, Jesus was the Son of God who died for my sins. He rose from the dead and offered me the hope of resurrection, but with a big BUT. The big BUT was that I had to measure up and obey the commandments. If I did, I would go to heaven. And if I didn’t, I would go to hell – and sometimes, that seemed more likely.
For me, in those early years, I did not feel close to Jesus. Instead, I saw him as distant, a judge, a punisher, a tough school teacher, or a disciplinarian. In turn, my primary feelings in relation to Jesus or God were guilt about anything wrong I had done and anxiety about the after-life. That’s how I used to answer the question “Who do you say that I am?”
Today, I am in a very different place. Lots of things have contributed to this – my education, my life experiences, and some wise spiritual mentors. Today, I first see Jesus as God who has become human, as a person on this earth with us. So, I now feel close to Jesus and positive about my relationship with God. I like to look at Jesus as what I call the three L’s: Light, Life, and Love.
I see him as the Light who leads me out of darkness. The darkness might be emotional baggage that leads me to see the glass as half empty and not half full. Or it might be the twisted ways of the world that exalt violent words and behavior. Jesus as the Light leads me out of these forms of darkness.
Then I see Jesus as the Life who leads me through the different forms of death, including physical death. I see him as revealing the mystery that I intuitively know, even though I cannot explain it. He states this mystery to Peter in today’s gospel: that suffering and death lead to life and resurrection. In this way, Jesus is for me the beginning, the goal, and the sustainer of Life.
And for the third L, I see Jesus as the Love who leads me from self-diminishment to self-esteem. I see him as the Love who leads me from treating others as objects to treating them as persons like myself.
And interestingly, even though he calls me to take up my cross of suffering, Jesus as Love also calls me to alleviate the suffering of others. This is what Saint James is exhorting in our second reading today.
So, that is how I used to answer and how today I now answer the question: “Who do you say that I am?”
I share my personal answers with you because each of us needs to answer this question personally. We need to do this for ourselves and our own relationship with God or Jesus.
It is a pivotal question. Our answer will have a lot to do not only with how we see and feel about God, but also with the kind of person we become and the kind of things we say and do.
~Fr. Michael Schleupner