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September 16, 2018 Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time Homily

In many situations asking the right question is critically important… but coming up with the right question at the right time is an art. If a scientist doesn’t ask the right question he or she will follow paths that do not lead to solving a problem that confronts them.

If the president of a corporation doesn’t ask the right question at the right time he will not successfully provide for his company’s future. If you are an employee, think of the importance of questions you put to your bosses. Asking the right question can lead to your promotion.

Think of how important it is for a police detective to ask the right question, or a doctor, or a psychiatrist. Asking the right question is a skill, an art, one that allows you to avoid going down a lot of blind alleys.

There are types of questions we also need to consider. For instance there are questions that begin with “How?” and there are questions that begin with “Why?”

“How?” questions call for answers that deal with technique – they call for technological answers.

“Why?” questions deal with meaning – they call for answers beyond the proofs found by using the scientific method of learning. “How?” questions seek proofs; “Why?” questions seek understandings and insights.

How the world was created? Is a one question, but why the world was created is another one. What is the purpose or maybe everything is an accident and does not have a purpose.

Take, for example, the question: “What is the meaning of life?” “What is the meaning of your life?” Using the Scientific Method will not lead you to answers to those questions.

You and I we know there is a meaning of life! Or maybe there is no meaning for life? What do you think?

Jesus Christ is God’s self-expression of Himself to us. We find Him in today’s Gospel account asking his disciples a terribly important question. He was asking them to tell Him who they think He really is.    Jesus 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.”

It seems to me that Jesus had two reasons for asking His question. One was in order to have His disciples give some serious thought to “who” they thought He was.

The other was to take the opportunity to teach them about what was going to happen to Him – to teach them about just what kind of a Messiah He was going to be for them, and what He had to endure in order to fulfill the mission His Father in heaven had given Him.

If we think that was the reason we would, of course, be correct. But there was another reason; a reason that I think was the most important of all, and that was to cause them to realize for themselves just who and what He was. It was what they knew in their hearts and minds to be true that was uppermost, I think, in His mind. He wanted them to articulate what was already deep within their hearts and souls and then to realize – make real – the answer in their real-world lives.

St. Mark reports this whole episode not just for the sake of entering it into the historical record but to confront you and me, two thousand years later, with the same question that confronted those disciples back then.

Just who do you think Jesus is for you now? Is He just an interesting historical figure? A nice guy among a lot of other nice guys who have started religions? Is He, as the Muslims say, a great prophet? Is He just one among many in a long line of Jewish rabbis?

Or is Christ Jesus God’s self-expression made human so that we can see Him, know Him, and love Him as one of us? And by “self-expression” I mean that Christ Jesus is God among us making Himself available to us. Christ Jesus is God the Son, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, made incarnate, made human flesh and blood for us so we can encounter Him in His Mystical Body, the Church.

As Catholic Christians we believe that God has made Himself available to us His children, not just to our minds but available to us in our humanity, in our whole persons, available to our minds, our hearts, our souls, and our bodies.

As Catholics we believe God has made Himself readily available to us in Christ who comes to us after His resurrection in special ways in the Seven Sacraments of our Church. As Catholics we believe that God is especially present to us and deep within us in Holy Communion.

 

During today’s Second Reading, we heard St. James speaking on the subject of faith. What is faith? Is it, as many enjoy by only believing in Jesus Christ for their salvation and then resting the rest of their lives?
If you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you?”
What good is faith if we neglect the promise that we made during the Sacrament of Confirmation? “By the strength of the Holy Spirit,” we were commanded “to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross.” (C.C.C. # 1303)
“So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”
True faith is living faith! It is a faith that bears fruit of the indwelling Holy Spirit. There is no such thing as an indwelling Holy Spirit who is dormant.

The grace of God is always at work! As such, the Holy Spirit always moves the soul to desire to be sanctified so it can shine in love towards others by charitable acts; so it can share the good news; so it can draw others to their living faith in Christ. These are some of the signs of living faith.
If we do not have these signs, we do not have the Holy Spirit. If we do not have the Holy Spirit, we do not bear fruits, these being works of God manifested through us. And, if we do not bear fruits, we do not have faith. For faith without works is dead!
Is Jesus Christ simply an interesting historical figure? Is Jesus Christ just one religious leader among others? Who is Jesus Christ for you?  Who do YOU think He is?

Peter and the other disciples gave their answers. What is your answer to His question?

Somehow we always find it easier to recognize the duties of others than our own so we will need to listen carefully as Jesus explains our part.

He called the people and his disciples to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.’

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