Who Do People Say That I Am
Not many people are honest enough or brave enough to ask the question in today’s gospel. Just think about you asking some friend, or perhaps, more courageously some enemy, “Who do you say that I am?” What do people think of me, or move to another step and ask yourself, “Who am I?” I recently read a story about a doctor in a New York City Hospital who makes time to attend Mass every day. When someone told him how impressed they were, he said he was not always so faithful, it was a patient who made him look at his life.
He said, “I would do rounds every day with my students examining patients.” As we entered the room, the patients would look intimidated, apprehensive, except one man-an African American-in his sixties who was very sick. The man would always greet them with “Hey, boys and girls” as if they were a bunch of teenagers. Sometimes the patient would make the students nervous as one said, “He seems to look right through us.” The man grew worse; he was sinking so the doctor went to see him alone. The man opened his eyes with a grin and said, “Well” as if he expected the doctor, while the doctor did not say anything and was reading the chart.
Then the man hit the doctor with a single remark, half a question and half something else. He asked with a smile, “Who are you?” The doctor first thought that because of the drugs that he did not recognize him. But, as if sensing what the doctor was thinking, he said, “Dr. Smith, who are you?” The doctor started to say, “Well as you know I am a doctor…” and then he just stopped cold. It was hard for him to describe or sort out what went on in his head. All kinds of answers went through his mind; they all seemed true and yet somehow less than true. “Yes, I am this, but also that. Well, that is not the whole picture.”
The doctor’s confusion must have shown because the man gave him a grin and closed his eyes. The doctor asked, “Is there anything I can do for you?” He said, “No, I am tired.” He died a few hours later. My friend, the doctor, could not get him out of his mind or his question, “Who are you?” For years, he had trained as a physician and got lost in his profession. He realized that the man had taken away his degree. Tossed it back to him and said, “But who are you? Beyond the degree?” The story does the same for us, who are you beyond the facade, the front that you put up.
Who are you beyond your job title or your degree or trade? So often, we try to be like the people we see in the commercials, neat, well dressed and smiling. Smelling great, hair gleaming, and underarms sterilized, homes comfortable and lives stress free. There is no blemish-laughter-joy and the good life abound. But that is not real, that is not who we are. Who are you beyond all the externals?
Who do you say that I am, is the question that Jesus asks in today’s gospel? How you answer, that question says a lot about you. Does Jesus have any effect on your day-to-day living? On the way you treat yourself? There is a danger that people fall into and that is we try to make Jesus in our image, likeness, and we humans often do this. The crusaders of the twelfth century tried to make him into a warrior who delighted in the slaughter of Muslims. The Ku Klux Klan has tried to make him into a middle class white American. Catholics have tried to make Jesus Catholic and Protestants have tried to make him Protestant. Many 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.
Sometimes we fail to realize that we do not call Jesus. He called us to follow Him. Yes, He has called you, not only priests and religious, but you sitting in the pew or at home watching Mass online. Your basic call was your baptism, it was there that you first turned to the Lord. It was His cross that was signed on your forehead, because of your baptism you are a disciple of Christ. The question we all ask ourselves is, “Are we living it?” Christ is here with us, someday He will come in power and glory to place all creation at the feet of the Father. But today, He comes quietly, subtly, invisibly, wherever you are looking for Him in the preached word.
In the host at communion time, look for Him inside you. Look for Him at home on the faces of your dear ones. But look for Him, especially, where He told you to look. In the hungry and thirsty, the stranger and the naked, the sick, the imprisoned and drug addicted. I would ask you to think about this, wherever you go in life, where you work, where you play and pray, where you live or go to school. If anyone there is looking for Christ, will they find Him in you or do they have to look for another? And If Jesus were to ask you, “Who do you say that I am?” What would your answer be?