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 perhaps 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 he would do rounds every day with his students examining patients. As they entered the room, the patients would look intimidated and apprehensive except one man, an African American in his sixties who was very sick. He said 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. The doctor went to see him alone and the man opened his eyes with a grin and said “Well” – like he expected the doctor. The doctor did not say anything as he read the chart. Then the man hit the doctor with a single remark that was 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 which all seemed true and yet somehow less than true.
Yes, I am this, but I am also that, but 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?” The man said no, I am tired. He died a few hours later.
My friend, the doctor, could not get him or his question out of his mind– 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, degree or trade?
So often we try to be like the people we see in the commercials who are neat, well-dressed, smiling, smelling great, hair gleaming, underarms sterilized, homes comfortable and lives that are 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 people 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 others…on the way you treat yourself? There is danger that people fall into and that is we try to make Jesus in our image and 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. It was His cross that was signed on your forehead and because of your Baptism you are a disciple of Christ. The question that we all ask ourselves is – are we living it?
Christ is here with us and someday He will come in power and glory to place all creation at the feet of his Father. But today He comes quietly, subtly, invisibly and wherever you are, look 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 and the imprisoned and the AIDs afflicted and the drug addicted.
I would ask you to think about this wherever you go in life, where you work, where you play and pray and where you live or go to school. If anyone is looking for Christ, will they find Him in you or do they have to look for another? If Jesus were to ask you – who do you say that I am – what would your answer be?