Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Question

"But who do you say that I am?"  (Mathew 16:15)

As a Christian, we must ask ourselves this question every day.  Who is Jesus?  Our answers evolve, expand, and deepen as we get to know our Lord.  There is a reason why we must daily ask ourselves this question that Jesus asked his disciples.  If our understanding of Jesus and our relationship with him does not evolve, then there is the danger of falling into a spiritual rut or into routine.  Not long ago, my confessor told me, “Beware routine.”  We cannot grow deeper in love with Jesus by just going through the motions.  So daily, this poor priest, kneels before the Blessed Sacrament, Jesus himself, and I ask:  Who is this Jesus?

This morning before any of us woke up, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the Closing Mass of World Youth Day in Madrid with over a million young people.  He took the same path that I chose to take with my homily, but he is the Holy Father so I’ll let him do the talking:

Dear young people, today Christ is asking you the same question which he asked the Apostles: “Who do you say that I am?”  Respond to him with generosity and courage, as befits young hearts like your own.  Say to him: “Jesus, I know that you are the Son of God, who have given your life for me.  I want to follow you faithfully and to be led by your word.  You know me and you love me.  I place my trust in you and I put my whole life into your hands.  I want you to be the power that strengthens me and the joy which never leaves me”.

In order to respond to Christ in this manner we need faith and lots of it.  In order to “put my whole life into your hands” we need to trust in Jesus who is inviting us into a deeper relationship with him.  The Pope said that he was moved by the great gathering of young people before him.  Every time I stand up here to celebrate Mass with so many young people, I am moved as well.  I see before me young men and women who united in their faith can transform the world.  Notice that I said united because we cannot do what God wants us to do on our own and the Pope echoed that this morning:

We cannot follow Jesus on our own.  Anyone who would be tempted to do so “on his own”, or to approach the life of faith with that kind of individualism so prevalent today, will risk never truly encountering Jesus, or will end up following a counterfeit Jesus.

Too many times we are seduced by individualistic and secular mindsets that the world leads us to.  We come to know Jesus as a community of faith, particularly here in the Breaking of the Bread.  We must get to know Jesus in communion with the Church.  We must resist the temptation of talking to God “my way” or “confessing directly to God” or any of the other individualistic ways we sometimes approach spirituality.  Jesus lived in a community, was strengthened by a community, and shared his Last Supper with a community.  As a priest, I draw strength not only from God but from all of you.  Yes, we must all individually answer the question, “who is Jesus?” but we do so in communion with the Church, and when we finally answer this question, the Holy Father tells us that we must share the Answer:

Friendship with Jesus will also lead you to bear witness to the faith wherever you are, even when it meets with rejection or indifference.  We cannot encounter Christ and not want to make him known to others.  So do not keep Christ to yourselves!  Share with others the joy of your faith.

As we begin a new school year this week, I invite you to continue asking yourself this question.  I tell my students time and time again, we cannot get to the Answer unless we ask the question.  Every morning this week, ask who Jesus is?  Deepen your faith.  Deepen your relationship with him.  And as the Pope implored the young people in Madrid:  “Do no keep Christ to yourselves!”  Share this Jesus and share your youthful joy with the world.