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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Who Do You Say That I Am? This Week's Reflection from Fr. Bob Warren

Franciscan Friars
Franciscan Friars
Who Do You Say That I Am?
(Luke 9:18-24)
St. Teresa of Avila, the 16th century nun and mystic, was speaking with Jesus as only she could. She said Jesus asked her who she was. Teresa responded with her religious name, "I am Teresa of Jesus." Then Teresa turned the question around. "Jesus, who are you?" Jesus replied "I am Jesus of Teresa." She said from that time on, she never doubted God's love for her. What would you say if Jesus asked you that question, 'who are you?'
There was a story in Catholic Digest many years ago written by a doctor. He relates how as an intern, part of the training was to visit patients in teams. Sometimes the patients were apprehensive or felt intimidated by so many young doctors. He remembered one man in particular, an African-American in his sixties. He was mischievous, always with a smile. The young doctors felt he was the one patient who was not intimidated. In fact, they all felt that he could see right through them. One night, there was an emergency and the doctor was called. He ordered that the man be moved into Intensive Care. When the patient was settled and the doctor was about to leave, the man opened his eyes and smiled. He hit the doctor with a single remark-half question, half something else: he asked "Who are you?"
The doctor thought, perhaps the drugs had affected his memory. So he said gently, "I am Dr. Smith." The man came right back and said, "Yes, I know your name and title, but who are you?" The doctor said it was hard for him to describe and sort out what went through his head. All kinds of answers went through his mind. They all seemed true—but then, less than true. Yes, I am this, but I am also that. Well, that's not the whole picture, the whole story. As the doctor left, he could not get the question out of his mind-who are you? He reflected that he had trained for years as a physician and realized that he almost got lost in it. He realized what the man did was take away his degree and toss it back to him and ask, "Is there more to you than this?"
That story does the same to us. Who are you, beyond the degree? Beyond the title? The role? Beyond your home and bringing up children? Who are you beyond the office? The school? Who are you beyond the hospital? The store? Where you work or play? Who are you? Who are you beyond all the externals?
Who do people say that I am is one question that Jesus asks in Luke's gospel. Who are you is another. The gospel is simply a challenge to introspection, a call to re-examine values, a prodding to some humility. In our gospel, we see Peter proclaim who Jesus is-the Christ. In other words, the disciples believed Jesus to be the anointed one whom God had sent. Then we see something strange happen. In the next verse of our gospel, right after Peter recognizes Jesus as the Christ, he tries to change Him. Jesus began to tell them that He must suffer and die. This shook the faith of the disciples. They could not imagine such a fate befalling the Christ. So Peter took Jesus aside and began to argue with Him. What a strange turn of events. To say in one breath, "You are the Christ." Then in the next breath, tell the Christ that He is making a big mistake. Peter may have been the first disciple who tries to reform Christ, but He was certainly not the last.
Catholics have tried to make Jesus Catholic, and Protestants have tried to make Him a Protestant. All of us have been guilty in one way or another, trying to make Christ in our own image. We want Him to be like us. We want Jesus to be the kind of savior that we want, but we are supposed to become like Him, to become other Christs, and that is never easy, is it? Because He is about a way of life. He's about the decisions we make in business and school. He's about honesty and caring and concern for others. He's about fidelity and ethics. He's about truth and making relationships work. He's about keeping one's word. He's about life, both here and hereafter. He's principled as well as merciful, demanding as well as forgiving, and He wants us to grow, to be decent, to be holy, to be saints. He will settle for nothing less.
Who do people say that I am? If Christ were to ask you that question, what would you say? Does the Jesus you know excite you, challenge you? Does He make you nervous with His demands? Yet, at the same time, do you want to know more about Him, follow Him and love Him?
At the start, I asked you what you would say if Jesus asked you who you are? Could you say, like the great St. Teresa, I am Kathy-Thomas-Joe-Susan-of Jesus?
Fr. Robert Warren
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Robert Warren Signature
Fr. Robert Warren, S.A.
Spiritual Director

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