21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

            It is said, “Life is all about asking the right questions and giving the right answers.” The questions that we give so much attention and thinking determine, to a large extent, the way we live our lives. The questions we always ask have the power to control or dictate the direction we take in our lives. For example: If the question that is always in our mind is “How can I earn bigger, how can I profit more, how can I get rich or become richer?” –naturally our life will revolve around money and material gains. If the question that always preoccupies us is: “How can I have a more comfortable life?” or, “How can I satisfy my desires or gratify myself?” naturally our life will be oriented towards pleasures.

            What is the single most important question you have ever asked and continue to ask? Is it really that important a question that it can change your life? How does it influence the way you live your life? To what direction is it leading you? Is it really where you want to go? In short, are you asking the right question and giving the right answer?

            In today’s gospel reading, Jesus asks an important question to his disciples: “Who do people say that I am?” Their answers or guesses point to someone else –John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the prophets. They give Jesus the different responses they have heard from people, all of them quite good and encouraging. That should have satisfied him; but Jesus wants to know more. He wants to know what the disciples themselves think of him. He wants to know: “Who do YOU say that I am?” And Jesus is also addressing that question to us.

            Pardon me for putting you on the spot…But how would you answer that same question? “Who do you say that I am?” Who is Jesus to YOU? Do you know Jesus from what others have told you? Or you know him from a deep personal faith experience? Is this Jesus that you know locked up in the pages of history? Or is he real and present in your daily life? Is he the invisible man, living somewhere up there, uninvolved in your circumstances down here? Or is he also down here, present in people, involved in your situation and circumstance each day?

            “Who do you say that I am?” “Who is Jesus to me?” This is a great question, the most important one, because this really is the defining question of life. Why? Because how you answer this question will determine how you live your life. It will set your general orientation towards life. “Who Jesus is to me” tells me who I must be. What this Jesus does shows us how I must act. What this Jesus stands for should define my principles, values, and standards.

            Shame on us, if we say that Jesus is the Messiah, but our lives say something else – totally different from what we say. We say that Jesus is our Messiah, our Savior, but actually we are looking for ‘salvation’ in material wealth and political power. We say that Jesus is the Lord of our life, but actually we are worshipping and serving the gods of materialism and consumerism. We say that we are followers of Jesus, but actually we are ‘following’ our wants and needs, our desires and urges, our selfish interests and ambitions.

            If we really consider Jesus as “the Christ, the Messiah,” we cannot put him inside the cabinet and just take him out when it is convenient for us to do so. We cannot confine him in just one area of our life or restrict his influence in just one aspect of it. We must allow him to be the Lord of our whole life –every aspect of it – not just our religious and spiritual life, but also our social, political, and economic life. We cannot allocate just one hour a week for him and spend the rest of our time to our projects and interests. We must devote every moment of our life to him –giving him all the glory and honor. We cannot give him just half of our heart, our mind and our strength; and the other half to our other concerns and preoccupations. We must give our whole selves to him. Our whole heart, mind and strength must be committed to actively sharing in the life and mission of Christ. Even our education, job, profession, career or business must be a participation in his mission.

            “Who do you say that I am?” “Who is Jesus to me?” Do not answer this right off the top of your head. Look deep in your heart. Is Jesus your Christ, your Messiah, your Savior, your Lord? This is the question that will transform your life.

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