A Catholic young adult took his Muslim friend to Church one day. The Muslim friend was just curious, he wanted to see what the church looked like. After the Mass, the Catholic young adult gave him a tour of the church. At the end of the tour, the Muslim friend asked, “What about the the golden box up there?” The Catholic young adult said, “I am sorry, I forgot. Yes, so the golden box is called Tabernacle. In it we have the Blessed Sacrament, which is the Body, the Blood, the soul, and the divinity of Jesus Christ, our God.” The Muslim friend said, “I don’t believe you. I don’t believe your God is in that box. I don’t even believe you believe your God is in that box. If I ever get to the point of believing my God is in that box, I will not behave in the church the way I’ve seen many of you behaving in the church. I’ll be more reverent, I will never be in a rush to leave his presence like you do.”
My dearly beloved Christ, today’s gospel passage is a favorite one for many Catholics. The words, “You are Peter, and on this rock I’ll build my Church,” is music to the ears of Catholics. Jesus asked his apostles, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They gave answers that indicated the people did not know him. He turned to his apostles and asked, “What about you, who do you say I am?” Simon Peter gave the right answer, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus gave him the thumbs up: “Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you but the Spirit of my Father in heaven. You are Peter (Rock), and on you I will build my Church…”
One thing that catches my attention in today’s gospel passage is Jesus asked this question halfway into his public ministry. He had been with them for a while. He had taught, fed, and healed so many people for a while; yet many of them did not know his true identity. What happened? Did Jesus not introduce himself when he started relating with them? Were they not attentive when he introduced himself? Well, I’ve decided not to dwell so much on that but to bring it to us today. We now know the right answer. Through Peter, we now know that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ; the Son of the Living God. However, there are still many people out there in the world who do not know Jesus. It is our responsibility as Christians to introduce Jesus to the world. When we come to Mass, we are missionaries in training. At the end of the Mass the priest or the deacon sends us into the world saying, “Go and announce the gospel of the Lord.”
However, going out to announce the gospel of the Lord, going out to introduce Jesus to the world, is not all about head knowledge. People are tired of our “theology.” People are fed up with us telling them they are wrong. They are tired of the knowledge we are impacting. What they need from us now is the experience. They desire to experience the Jesus we claim to know. As Christians, we are followers of Christ. So we are the path through which the world meets Jesus. Our life inside and outside the church should be an introduction of Jesus to the world. If after relating with me, a person later decides to read the Bible, will that person confidently say, “Now I know why Emmanuel behaves this way; that is exactly what Jesus says in the Bible”?
A little boy was carrying a bag of apple fruits on a very busy street. While walking, he tripped and fell on the ground. The fruits scattered in different directions. He tried to pick them up one after the other. He was meandering between people’s legs; some people were kicking the fruits even farther away from him, some others were scolding him, and some were stepping on him. He kept on crying while trying to pick the fruits. A man came to him, bent down with his hand on the boy’s shoulder and said, “May I help you?” Amidst his sobs, the little boy nodded and said, “Yes.” The man helped him pick all the fruits, washed them, and handed them over to the little boy. Before the man could turn around to leave, the little boy looked at him and asked, “Are you God?” The man smiled and said, “I am not God, but I am a child of God.” The little boy punched the air with his fist and said, “I knew it! I knew it is either you are God or you are related to God!? My dear friends, we now know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. But the world does not know him. When people relate with us after this Mass, will they be able to look at us to say, “Are you Christ? Or are you one of his relatives?”