“Two men looked out through the bars, one saw the mud, the other saw the stars. ”  (Dale Carnegie)

Why such a different response when both persons are looking out at the same reality?  Maybe … it helps us realize that FAITH is a gift – when we have the eyes to see it!

The disciples had been with Jesus for almost three years.  They had heard him preach; they witnessed some spectacular miracles and personal encounters with people.  Presumably, after all this time together, the apostles enjoyed a close and intimate relationship with Jesus, and with each other.  It was in this context that Jesus asked the question, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  The question was asked so that Jesus could determine the mind-set of his little band of followers.  Did they even dimly grasp who and what he was?  What was his mission, not surmised but for real? So the first question began by asking what other people were saying about him and who they took him to be.

The second question was then more personal, “But who do YOU say I am?” At that moment, and with such a personal request, there may have been a moment of stunning silence.  Peter broke the silence with a profound expression of faith, “ You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!”  Jesus, on hearing Peter’s response, then knew that his work was somewhat safe.  At least someone seemed to understand and dimly imagine the depth of his mission.  Even though the insight came not from Peter’s observations only but also from the infusion of the Spirit.  Jesus sensed that one of his close followers recognized him to be the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, the Son of the living God.”

A scriptural note: the word Messiah and the word Christ are the same. “Messiah” is the Hebrew word and “Christ” is the Greek word for “The Anointed One”.  Prophets, kings, important ambassadors were anointed in their calling and mission.  The Messiah, the Christ, the ‘Anointed One’ is God’s King over all creation.

This passage teaches us that our discovery of Jesus Christ must be a personal discovery.  Jesus asks each of us, “YOU – what do you think of me? What do you say to others about me?”  We can know all the stories and gospel narratives of Jesus’ encounters with people and nature; we can be steeped in every Christology that scholars have described – and still not be a Christian!  Christianity is not knowing about Jesus; it consists in knowing Jesus, to enter into a personal and intimate friendship with the person of Jesus.  One litmus test as to the depth and intimacy of our relationship with Jesus is our seriousness and constancy to prayer. Do I pray only when I need something from Jesus?  Is my prayer of gratitude and thanksgiving sporadic and occasional? or persistent throughout the day?  Do I quiet my soul and inner being enough to hear what Jesus wants to say to me, to challenge me, to hear words of love and compassion and forgiveness?  Good friends stay “in touch” with each other all the time and in all circumstances.

The focus of Lent is to give us (another) 40 days to begin or deepen God’s invitation to each of us to enter into a personal and life-giving relationship with his Son, Jesus.  The gift and blessings of our birth and then our Baptism and Confirmation immerses us / plunges us into the graces and goodness of God.

Psalm 139: 13-14 beautifully describes, “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.”

I invite you, if you wish to respond, to a Lenten exercise to support you in your journey and reflections during this Lenten Season.  If Jesus was asked to write a letter of reference for you, what would he say?

This will be the second Lenten Season that we are challenged to live and grow in our faith-life without being able to physically and socially gather to pray, to encourage each other in the ways that we always could meet together.  We have found new and creative ways to connect, but “it’s not the same”!

I leave you with the words of Laura Kelly Fanucci:

When this is over, may we never again take for granted:

A handshake with a stranger, (a hug from our grandkids), full shelves at the store,

conversations with neighbors, a crowded theatre, Friday night out,

the taste of communion.

A routine checkup, the school rush each morning, coffee with a friend,

the stadium roaring, each deep breath, a boring Tuesday … Life itself.

When this ends, may we find that we have become

more like the people we wanted to be,

more than we were called to be, more than we hoped to be.

And may we stay that way – better for each other because of the worst.

 

With St. Paul I share this blessing:

“I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.  For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus.  And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with the knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best …”                (Philippians 1: 3, 8-10)

 

Praise be Jesus Christ … and Mary Immaculate

St. Philip Neri … pray for us

St. Eugene de Mazenod … be with us in all our efforts.

 

Peace to you and all your family,

Fr. Mike