September 16th, “But who do you say that I am”? Reflecting on this Sunday’s Gospel reading.

Mark 8:27-35

“Jesus and his disciples set out
for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.
Along the way he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that I am?”
They said in reply,
“John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others one of the prophets.”
And he asked them,
“But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said to him in reply,
“You are the Christ.”
Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.

He began to teach them
that the Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed, and rise after three days.
He spoke this openly.
Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples,
rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake
and that of the gospel will save it.””

“Who do you say that I am?”  Don’t say what others say.  Jesus asks, “But who do YOU [emphasis mine] say that I am?”  Who is Jesus to you?  Some of us will say, “He is my Lord and Savior”.  Other’s may say, “He was a nice guy, but wasn’t God”.  Some may claim he didn’t even exist and that it’s all a made up fairy tale.  Who is Jesus to you?

For years I really didn’t know or understand Jesus myself.  It wasn’t a lack of effort from my parents.  I knew who Jesus was.  I believed Him to be a real person and I believed in His divinity and miracles.  But I didn’t understand what Jesus’ role was in Salvation History.  I didn’t understand the necessity of Jesus in my life and in the lives of everyone.  When you are a child, you understand childish things.  As I grew older and could comprehend more, I found Jesus wasn’t my priority and wasn’t all that interesting.  I didn’t care.

When I was 32, my life changed.  I had a reversion or re-conversion back to Jesus, and His Church.  Almost overnight my life had meaning and purpose.  I begin to study Jesus more.  I read and studied the Bible more. I started opening my mind and reading books and listening to lectures and talks.  I began to pray more fervently and earnestly than I had in years.  I began to attend church regularly again.  My wife during this time had a similar experience.  I dare say her’s was my catalyst.  Both of our stories are well documented here and in much greater detail.  But we both turned away from our previous lives.  I could very well have kept my old life and no chance of eternal life.  But rather I chose to lose my old life for eternal life.

That’s not to say that it has been easy.  It would have been more difficult without God’s Grace.  Certainly the final reward will only be possible through God’s Grace.  I am no saint.  I am a sinner and despite that, I have put Jesus in the center of my life. There have been times where I turned my back on Him and threw Him out the window.  But every time I come to my senses, I turn away from sin, there’s Jesus standing in that window waiting for me to let Him in to the center of my life again.  Ready to forgive.  That’s love!  That’s Mercy!

Taking up our cross is not meant to be easy!  It’s heavy! We are going to fall under its weight.  You have to say no to what you want and believe me I know that’s not easy.  I have my “bucket list” just like the rest of us, and I have had to revise it a few times because there were things on it that came between me and Jesus.  Even today, my love for Jesus has put me at odds with some friends, even some family.  I love them all just the same no matter what they think of me.  If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be trying to lead them to Jesus.  I am willing to sacrifice relationships with friends, family, with anyone if they were to get between me and Jesus. I won’t turn my back on them.  They’ll have to do that to me if they want.  But I won’t keep my mouth shut either.  Neither will my wife.

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.” What about you?

Just one more thing:  “Who do you say that I am?”  You are Jesus, the son of the Living God who reconciled the entire human race to God the father out of Love and Mercy.  You are my Lord and Savior and I am your servant willing to give up all that I am for you no matter what the cost, or the pain, even if I fail you and fall; I will get back up for you just as you did for me.   

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