Thursday, August 28, 2014

Who Is Jesus Christ?

In the Gospels, Jesus asks a seemingly easy question: “Who do you say that I am?” (Mt. 16:15, Mk. 8:29, Lk. 8:20). It is not that Jesus is having either a moment of amnesia or an existential crisis. His reason to ask seems to be more of a PR question – do people understand who He is? St. Peter answers that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. His answer is correct, but Peter’s understanding of the answer is flawed, as he later reprimands Jesus on His prediction of His death and resurrection.
The question remains for us to answer, too. Who do we say that He is? If the claims of the Gospel are correct, we are commanded to answer. Jesus makes some bold statements! He claims to be the only way to God, that He is the Bread of Life that gives life to the entire world, that He and the Father are one. How can we understand Jesus’ proclamations? CS Lewis gives a wager, of sorts, that we can use to help answer both questions of who we say Him to be and who He is. If what He taught is not true, but Jesus believes it to be, Jesus is crazy, proclaiming false truths. If, on the other hand, Jesus knowingly is teaching what He knows not to be true, He is telling lies. But, if Jesus is telling the truth, He really is who He says he is. In short, Jesus is either a lunatic, a liar, or truly the Lord. He cannot be just a wise man, or a good teacher, or a sort of guru… He is either Lord or nothing at all.
So my answer to the question, “Who is Jesus?” He is Lord. He is the Savior of the world, and He is the Father’s loving offer of eternity. He is the one who offers Himself to the Father for us and is ever present to us. He is the Son of God made flesh. When we encounter Him, we encounter God, and Jesus reveals the Holy Trinity (the eternal union of the three Persons – Father, Son, and Spirit – in the one God). If this is true, how can we go about our lives unchanged, failing to see everything through the eyes of faith.
As CS Lewis also wrote, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” It is a bold claim! We must allow Him to be God, and allow Him and that faith inform our decisions and activity.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Meditation on Gospel of Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary time

When life gets hectic, as it so often does, or when the storms of life whip up and attempt to rob me of my peace, I find myself turning to an image from Matthew 14:22-33. It is the scene of Jesus and Peter walking on the water. Jesus had just revealed himself as master over matter as He multiplied bread and fish a thousand-fold (feeding 12,5000-15,000 with what should have only feed 12-15 people). Now, after spending time in prayer, he shows Himself as Master of the elements as He walks on the water, and in the end, calms the wind. The apostles see Him, and are terrified – who can walk on water, and who can blame them for their fear? Jesus calms them, but Peter asks for proof, asking that Jesus command him to walk on water, too. Jesus calls him, and Peter leaves the boat’s safety (as relative as that safety is in the midst of the strong winds). He walks, but it is not long until human logic kicks in and he begins to notice the wind and wave, and begins to sink. He calls to Jesus, who is right there to save him.
Why does this give me comfort? I cannot help but to imagine that Jesus took Peter for a little walk on the water, calling him to deeper faith, telling him to keep his eyes on Jesus constantly. I cannot help but see Jesus and Peter almost dancing on the waves, with the two standing shoulder to shoulder, outer hand clasped to the outer hand. What an image of peace! Dancing on the water amidst the storm!
St. Peter was walking where we cannot humanly walk because he focused on Jesus. In the storms of our lives, do we focus on the wind and the wave, or the Savior who calls us to walk with Him? We think we have it all figured out, that our logic is flawless, that the safest place to be is in the boat, bunkered down. But Jesus calls us into a deeper safety – with Him, even out of the boat. When we learn to trust Him, we will find ourselves able to walk, perhaps even dance, in the midst of the storms of life, keeping our hearts focused on Him and remaining in His peace.