Sunday, September 16, 2018

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time Homily: Don't Believe in Something. Believe in Someone.

"Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything."  It's a catchy phrase. It capitalizes on our desire to do big things, to make a difference, to be heroic. But, it kind of sounds a bit like, "Believe in anything. Just believe in something...whatever it is." But, we know that people have believed in some very bad ideas throughout human history and--on the altar of those beliefs--have sacrificed a great many lives.

Today, Jesus asks the crowd, "Who do people say that I am?" It's a good question. What are the people who've heard about me, seen me from a distance, or read about me saying?  If we were asked that question today, we might tell the Lord, "Some people say that you are a great teacher, a moral leader, or a very kind and accepting person." Basically, the crowds say that Jesus is a really really nice guy. 

Then Jesus asks, "But who do you say that I am?" Now Jesus asks his apostles--a smaller crowd--what they themselves say to this important question. I've often heard it said that if you want something not to work, form a committee. If you really want it not to work, have the committee write a mission statement. The apostles didn't decide to have a meeting about this important question. They didn't form a sub-committee to look into it and arrive at a consensus statement. Instead, Peter blurts out, "You are the Christ!" 

Jesus did not want the apostles to "believe in something." He wanted them to believe IN HIM. Peter did not give that answer because he was so smart that he figured it out. He gave that answer because he was given faith to believe. Faith is not about listening to the crowds around us and adopting the most popular or most attractive belief. Peter confessed Jesus to be the Christ because it was revealed to him. Faith is believing WHAT Christ says because we believe WHO He is. 

In a short while, you're all going to approach the altar and I'm going to hold up what appears to be a piece of flat bread. I'm going to say, "The Body of Christ" and you are not going to say, "Well some people say it's just bread. Some people say its a symbol of love." No, you're going to say, "Amen. I believe." You believe it not because you've done a chemical analysis on it and have seen proof that it is actually the Body of Christ. You believe it not because some really other smart people figured it out and you figure you'll just follow along. No, you believe it because you believe Him. You believe that the One who said, "This is My Body, This is My Blood," is the Son of God Himself. You believe what he says because you believe the One who says it. This the gift of Faith.

Now, as soon as Peter made this act of Faith, Jesus explains that He will suffer, be crucified, and died. Immediately, Peter goes back to a worldly way of looking at things.  He doesn't like the idea of a Messiah who suffers. And so he says that the disciples won't allow such a thing to happen. And Jesus rebukes him. Why? Because believing Jesus means believing Him even when it contradicts our own emotions, wants, or plans. In fact, it especially means that. When we believe Jesus when it requires suffering, sacrifice, and loss, that is a special act of Faith. Our Faith grows through in moments such as these.

I've got to tell you, it is so great this morning to look out and see all of you at Mass. In most parishes, I'd be one of the young people at Mass!  But here, I'm one of the oldest. (I see a few outliers here who make me not quite the oldest, but I'm in the top ten percent!) Here you are though. You're at Mass on this beautiful day.  You could be outside enjoying the sun, but instead you're in here at Mass. Why? Because you believe that Jesus is the Son of God. You believe Him when He says, "I am the Bread of Life. Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no life in you." You believe what he says because you believe the one who says it. 

It's not about "believing something." I mean some people probably say, "I believe in the sun." "I believe in kindness." Blech! The sun might give you skin cancer, but it won't give you eternal life. You're here this morning because you have Faith. Maybe part of you wanted to just lay out and enjoy the good weather. But, you believe in Someone and you believe what that Someone has said.  It's so beautiful today seeing you live out your Faith.

Oftentimes, the greatest challenges to our faith is when it requires sacrifice on our part. We want Faith, but we don't want the Cross. But Faith demands that we take up our Cross. It means sacrificing everything. It means following Jesus, especially when doing so requires us to die to ourselves. 

 We don't just believe in something. We believe in Someone. We believe in Jesus Christ. And we believe Him that if we sacrifice everything to follow Him, He will save us and raise us up.

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