I delivered this homily at the 5pm Mass on Saturday June 18, 2016 at St. Edward Church in Nashville, TN.
Who do the crowds say that Jesus is?
Jewish instigator? Miracle wonder man? Hero of fools? Was Jesus just another Jewish rabble rouser who made a big stink in the temple so the Romans had to put down to keep peace in Jerusalem? Was he just a country teacher in 1st century Judea? Teacher of humanism before it was a thing who just wanted us to be nice to each other?
These are the things that the crowds today say that Jesus is.
But who do you say that he is?
Do you believe that Jesus was one of those things the world proclaims him to be? Or do you believe that he is the Christ of God? Since you are here, I suspect that you think the latter in some way – or at least you are seeking the faith to believe that with the Church and with me.
Let’s talk about why we believe that. I have two pieces of evidence that Peter was right when he said that. First, there is that whole rising from the dead thing. This isn’t something that your average country teacher can pull off. Yet, 2000 years ago, a group of otherwise sane men went to their deaths to proclaim the belief that this happened. They saw him. They touched him. They knew him.
There is a second reason, though: the spread of the Gospel. In the Acts of the Apostles, Gamaliel, Paul’s teacher points out (and he’s right) that, if the Catholic Church were manmade, it would fall on its own, and that’s true. If the Church were manmade, it would have crumbled centuries ago. But if the Church is of God, then fighting it pits us not against a purely human institution, but against God Himself. So, the mere fact that the Catholic Church has survived every human institution that has ever existed and fulfills the old testament prophecies that worship of the one true God would spread from the Jews to the entire world.
So, I have good reason to believe that Jesus is the Christ of God and God Himself.
Do you believe that? Do you say, with Peter, the apostles, the Church, and me that Jesus is the Christ of God?
Then what of it? What does that mean? Does that change the way we live our lives? If it doesn’t, then can we truly say that we believe? If we make it as far as the parking lot before we are cursing the car that cuts us off on the way home, can we really say we follow Christ?
So, how should our lives change if we proclaim our belief in Christ, if we claim to follow him? We must clothe ourselves in Christ; we must be Christ in the world. If people who meet us know we are Christians only because we tell them so or because we wear a cross, then we are doing it wrong. It is our job to proclaim Christ to the world in every action and every word we say. When each of us is baptized, we become Christians, little Christs – that’s what the word means.
By being Christ in the world, it feels like we should be welcomed. We should be loved in the same way we love Christ. But, in fact, the world will respond to us in the same way it responded to Christ. Jesus himself tells us so: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” If you’re anything like me, the idea of taking up our crosses, of being crucified with Christ, is not particularly appealing. I don’t want to be crucified. I don’t want to take up my cross. But, I do want to follow Christ because I trust the promise he made me: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” That’s the promise he makes each of us. Do we want to give our lives to God and so save them for eternal life? Or do we want to think we are saving our lives in this life, like we are living for ourselves – when in reality that just means we are enslaved to the world? In that case, we lose our life in eternal life by turning from God.
That is the choice each of us must make. It is a simple choice; there are only two options: believe in Jesus Christ and follow him or reject him and treat him as a country teacher from the past who may have said some interesting things and given some good advice, but that’s it.
The choice is simple, but the answer is not easy to live.
Who do you say this Jesus is?
What are you going to do with that answer?