Not an Alibi but a Conviction
Homily for the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Preached on June 23, 2013 at Saint Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, Hightstown NJ
Readings: Zechariah 12:10-11; 13:1; Psalm 63:2-6, 8-9; Galatians 3:26-29; Luke 9:18-24
Who does He think He is?
That was what the guests of Simon the Pharisee were murmuring about (cf. Lk. 7:49) after Jesus told the sinful woman who had crashed the Pharisee’s private party that her sins were forgiven (cf. Lk. 7:37-38, 48). It was something that no one had ever heard anyone say. It certainly got a lot of people talking that eventually Jesus asks His disciples what is the latest buzz about Him in the opinion polls.
“Who do the crowds say that I am?” (Lk. 9:18)
They tell Him what they have heard: “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, one of the ancient prophets has arisen” (Lk. 9:19). So far, the crowds have compared Jesus to someone else: He is like John or Elijah, a remnant of a forsaken past. It would seem that the jury is still out on who He is.
But, Jesus does not ask His disciples this question to get them to give Him an update on His approval ratings. He raises it so that He can ease them into the question that He really wants to ask them.
“Who do you say that I am?” (Lk. 9:20)
The disciples have heard what everyone had to say. Jesus is now challenging them to make up their own mind. In doing so, He takes them from the realm of public opinion to a place that calls for faith. Everyone will have an opinion about Jesus. But, to follow Him, as these disciples have, means that one has to believe in Him and in who He is. People would hardly die for an opinion; but, they would gladly do so for a conviction. That is why, as soon as Peter makes a profession of faith—“You are the Christ of God” (Lk. 9:20)—Jesus tells them the price that everyone has to pay to come after Him: deny one’s self, take up one’s cross daily, and follow Him (cf. Lk. 9:23).
We live in a world where people feel so entitled about their own opinions that they are willing to shove them into other people’s throats. If any one of us dared to stand up for anything, we would hear the same complaint once heard at the dining room of Simon the Pharisee: Who do you think you are?
Hopefully, people would ask us that question not because we have an attitude that needs to be changed, but because of our servitude to the Lord which will not change. They would ask us that question because we dare to be Christians in a post-Christian world, Catholics in an anti-Catholic society. Our convictions do not change with the tides of public opinion; they are planted firmly in the rock of Peter’s profession of faith. We stick to our faith on who Jesus is even if this world dismisses us as losers. Jesus assures us that “whoever loses his life for [His] sake will save it.” (Lk. 9:24). By baptism, we belong entirely to Him and nothing, not even politics—neither Jew nor Greek—not even status—neither slave nor free—not even gender—neither male nor female, neither gay nor straight—should mean more to us than He should (cf. Gal. 3:27-28). What we are is nothing compared to who Jesus is. Who Jesus is is everything to what we are called to be.
If we say whom we profess Jesus to be, then all that we are should reflect that profession of faith. Our Christianity should not be an alibi that gets us out of hell; rather, it should be a conviction that would sentence us to Heaven.
Before His judgment seat, the Lord will ask us the same question that He once asked his disciples: Who do you say that I am? (Lk. 9:20) Hopefully, none of us would have settled for what the crowds had claimed Him to be. For the disciples would be the first ones to tell us that we should know better than that.