Homily – Fr. Jenish

“Who was Jesus?”, and “Who is Jesus?” These are the most basic questions we can ask about him. According to Matthew, Jesus put this question to his first followers: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (8:17).

Next, Jesus asks a second question, this time one that invites his followers to take a personal stand, and state what Jesus means to them: “But you,” he says, “who do you say I am?” (8:29). Peter answers for his group: “You are the Christ [the Messiah], the Son of the living God.”

Certainly, Jesus was not concerned about his popularity among the people. What he really wanted to know was, whether each of his disciples fully understood him.

Jesus was, in fact, asking his disciples of their understanding about his relationship to God and his relationship to the human race.

This is a personal question to each of us and demands a personal answer. It is a critical question that calls us to commit ourselves one way or the other.

Perhaps it is worth reflecting today these questions: Do we know Jesus Personally? And what do we know of Him? To know Jesus personally is to respond to his message and therefore to change our lives and become better human persons. Knowing him also involves an experience of his presence, friendship, imitation, trust and prayer in our daily lives.

The knowledge which comes from a personal relationship with him gives rise to a desire, and perhaps even a yearning, a hunger and a craving, to know more about him, to learn more about his values and the way he lived his life. This, in turn, will enable us to make a personal and decisive commitment to become partners in building God’s kingdom.  But this can not be achieved by our own merit, but this faith is a gift from God.

I got to know this particular young man who did his bachelors in theological studies in a Salesian institute near our seminary in Bangalore, India. We used to chat quite often since he used to join my Passionist community of brothers mainly for sports. Both his parents were Hindus and followed Hinduism as their religion. But he was brought up in Christian faith by his godparents who were Catholics. Both his parents and his godparents were present for his ordination to the priesthood. I was fortunate to witness his ordination as a friend. In his thanksgiving speech one sentence that captured my attention when he said, I love my parents for allowing me to love this Jesus and embrace this gift of faith. And he never stopped loving Jesus. This young priest continues to do his missionary work in rural parts of Karnataka, in India.

I wondered, is his faith in Jesus, not a gift? I believe it is. And this Faith, he wished to share with the people he came across.

In the gospel today we hear of a gift peter received. Jesus said to Peter, you are a happy man because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you, but my father in heaven.

Peter was chosen to have this knowledge of Christ by God. Thus at the end of the day, it is a gift of faith from God that draws one completely to Jesus Christ, the faith that sees the invisible. We should consider ourselves as chosen blessed to have shared this faith in Jesus though we fail to keep it going many times.

Even peter failed to keep this God-given faith and knowledge of Christ time and again especially when he denied Jesus three times.

But that was not the end of the story. This faith was restored time and again, it was completely restored after the resurrection.

This faith will grow stronger if we can find time to encounter this Christ in our meditation on the scriptures, in the eucharist and in the people we meet. This deepening faith is daily exercise. With that in mind, we continue the liturgy.