My dear sons and daughters in Christ, one of the places we visit on our recent pilgrimage was Caesarea Philipi. It is in ruins now but during our Lord's time it was a thriving city. It was there that the most important question of all time was asked, “who do you say that I am”? Everything depends on how we answer this question.
First, Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” The crowds had a lot of answers, all of them wrong. The Baptist with his head reattached, Elijah returned from heaven, or one of the prophets returned to life. Wrong—wrong—wrong. We could ask the same question today; who is Jesus? And we would get a lot of wrong or incomplete answers too. A good guy. Yes but a good guy can't save us from our sins. A teacher. Yes, but a teacher can't do it either. A prophet? Yes but way more. Our elder brother, yes but not primarily.
How did the disciples answer. Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and by the will of the Father, gives the right and fundamental answer: the Christ (or Anointed One) of God. The answer itself requires more reflection to find out what it completely means intellectually. Look at the Nicean Creed, the Writings of the Fathers, and the Teaching of the Popes. Not a suggestion by the way. It is essential that we clearly understand who Jesus is. This is why we always use the Nicean Creed not the Apostles at Mass. It is more detailed.
But is is also important that we live out this answer. Many are there that say Lord, Lord that will not enter the Kingdom of God. We need to live Lord, Lord. Every word, every action of our lives needs to proclaim loudly that Jesus is the Christ of God, that Jesus is the Son of God, that Jesus is Lord.
Sounds easy doesn't it? Well you and I both know that it isn't. That it is the work of a lifetime. And sometimes we fail. But with God's help we try again. We love God above all. We love our neighbors as ourselves. We reach out to those who are in pain or in need. We conform our minds and heart to the teaching of Christ and His Church. We forgive not just seven times but seventy times seven times. And when we fail or come up short we turn to Christ, confess our sins, and with His help try and try again.
I was awestruck at how our parish did this last Sunday and all week. (Bet you wondered when I was going to say something about that.) I saw the teachings of Christ in action. Among the people who protected their families and neighbors and stayed calm. Among those who rushed after the shooter to protect all of us and keep him from hurting anyone else. Among those who rush to help assist Jim and Tara. Above all those who prayed despite real cause for fear and panic. (That is not not mention all the police, fire, paramedics, ambulance, and media types as well as our friends and neighbors who contacted us with generous offers of help and prayers.) Good job, St James. Good job, Ogden. Like a boss!
But don't let me give you too much of a swelled head. You were able to do that because God was and is with you. God loves you that much. And it isn't over. We need to forgive. Yes forgive even Ricky Jennings. Jesus commands it! Ricky didn't cease to be our brother by his action. (By the way, this doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't seek legal justice.) But when you think of him, pray from him and let God set your heart free. We need to reach out to those who have been hurt or traumatized. If you need someone to talked to, please call the office and let us put you in touch with someone who can help. Don't try to tough it out. Help me get the word out to those who might be afraid to come back to church. Let's also me mindful of the women, men (yes men), and children touched by domestic violence or violence of any kind.
Remember who was with us last Sunday. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the choirs of angels, the saints, the suffering souls, and the church militant on earth united in the Body of Christ. They are with us today and tomorrow and forever.
I am thankful for you, our friends and neighbors, those earthly and those heavenly, but most of all for the God with us, Jesus, the Christ of God!
(And yes you still have to go to Mass. :) )