If I asked you to tell me about someone important in your life, what would you tell me? My guess is we would all start how we know the person. So, you know, something like “well I’ve known Mike since second grade and he’s always been my best friend,” or “yeah, I lived a few summers with Fr. Pete at his parish and he is just this ball of energy” And that quick introduction would give us all a frame of reference, but what if I asked you to really describe them to me, that I want to know who they are? Now the stories come out, right? So I would have to tell you about the time Fr. Pete hid one of his staff member’s car keys as a prank and then honestly, completely forgot – not where they were – but that he had hid them at all. Poor Jan is walking around going “has anyone seen my keys?”, and Fr. Pete in complete, honest forgetfulness is going, “no… no idea.” And you can imagine that if I wanted to tell you about Fr. Pete we would be here for the next hour laughing as I go through all my memories of him.
To really understand someone you have to know some of their story. You have to know not just the details of their life but the things that they have done, the living memory of the funny, the serious, the significant things that show forth some of what words can’t describe. Hence, our second reading today from the Letter of James talks so much about doing the works of faith and has that famous line “Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.” A real Christian is someone that you can describe by the works they have done, by the stories of how they have cared for those in need and shown the love and mercy of Christ. If people can’t describe us with a story like that, then what use is it to say that we are Christian… what use is a faith that we claim in our minds but that does not change the way we live?
Christ, too, in the Gospel made it very clear that it was by his deeds that people could understand who he is. He starts with just a general question of “who do people say that I am?”, and then he moves to the more haunting question of “who do you say that I am?” And even though the apostles, through the voice of Peter, can make the statement of faith that he is the Christ, they still don’t know what that means. I say that because the next thing Jesus does is tell them of the deeds that will need to take place: that he must suffer greatly, that he must be rejected by the people, that he must suffer death, and most of all that he must rise in three days. That is the story that defines Christ; that is what must be proclaimed whenever someone want to know who Jesus was… that he was the one who out of love for us offered up our life while we were yet sinners, and that in the shedding of his blood death was destroyed and life was restored, such that we too hope to live with him in his resurrection. The apostles couldn’t see that part of the story yet. So when they say you are the Christ, he says don’t tell anyone; when they object to his suffer, he says get behind me Satan… because you can’t have Christ without his Passion.
And so he invites all of us. Look at your story, look at how people would describe you, and ask yourself: does my story point to Christ. Have I picked up my cross and followed him, offering myself and my life for the sake of others, so that when someone looks at me they look at Christ as well? That is the path of life that we are being called to live. We are called to live a faith that is evident in our works. Who do you say that Christ is? And does that change who people say that you are?
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Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone. Please remember that no homily is written with this blog in mind.