If a tone deaf person is trying to argue with you how an orchestra had performed or a blind man is trying to tell you how to paint a rainbow . . . we all know he does not know what he is talking about. But, if a proud, arrogant and self-centred person claims that he knows what he is doing even though he clearly is causing much hurt and harm to his family, relatives, friends and colleagues, then such behaviour is far worse than the tone-deaf and the blind person, because a proud, arrogant and self-centred person is furthest from the truth of his authentic self.
This is because we are each created in the image of God’s infinite, perfect and unconditional Love. And the fullness of such infinite, perfect and unconditional love is found in the person of Jesus. And so, if we do not know the person of Jesus and have not yet developed a personal relationship with Him, then we cannot say that we know our authentic and true self. If our relationship with Jesus is weak, lukewarm and superficial, then our knowledge of our true selves would also be shallow and our love for our self would also be lukewarm and weak.
And so, when Jesus in today’s Gospel asks His disciples and us, “Who do you I am?” He is asking us a fundamental question that all of us must answer or at least try to answer as truthfully as we can because we cannot know our true self if we do not know who Jesus is. And, we cannot truly say that we love ourselves fully unless we have developed a personal relationship with Jesus.
“How many of us can claim that we know ourselves . . . I mean know our true and authentic selves? If we do, then we will be living a fulfilling and happy life that is life-giving, and filled with peace, joy and truth. But, if we reflect on our daily living and find that our life is on the contrary, filled with anxieties, unhappiness and meaninglessness, and if we find ourselves causing pain and division to others, then clearly we are not living the authentic and truthful life that we are meant to live. In short, if we want to live a fulfilling life, we must learn to develop a personal relationship with Jesus and follow Him.
Imagine that you are lost in a strange city and do not know how to get to the place where your family is living. It’s so important for you to find them as you love them so very much and it is your deepest desires. However, when you ask people in the streets of how to get to where your family is, nobody seems to know and every person seems to be as lost as you. Then, to your surprise you meet Jesus along the street. And you ask Him for direction. He immediately hands you a map of how to get there. He calls you affectionately by name and says, “John, this place is 200 km away, but I assure you that if you follow the map closely you will surely find your family. Do not be afraid as I will be with you at all times to guide you along. You then say to Jesus, “200 km?! That’s very far! I am so tired and hungry and I am not sure whether I can make it.” Again, Jesus with much patience and compassion assures you. “Yes, John, I know you have been lost for some time in this strange city and nobody seems to be of much help to you. The journey would not be easy, but you must be strong and you must trust Me; I will lead and guide you . . . ”
My brothers and sisters in Christ, it would be foolish for John not to take the map that Jesus is offering and not to accept His offer to guide and lead you to your destination. It would be pride, arrogance and self-centredness. The journey may be very tough, but at least John knows that every step he takes, he is making progress towards reaching his destination. And so, if John were to accept Jesus’ invitation and face the challenges and the crosses he has to carry and stays close to Jesus, then that would be wisdom.
Our daily living experiences are similar. Jesus desires to lead and guide us in our life’s journey. Many of us feel that our life on earth is filled with anxieties and we are somewhat lost . . . and when we try to ask around . . . nobody seems to really know the way and they too are lost. The only way is to get to know Jesus personally and to follow Him so that when He were to ask us, “Who do you say that I am, we could immediately say, Lord, You are the Way, the Truth and the Life. Then, Jesus will ask us another personal question, “Are you willing to take up the cross when you follow me?” What would our answer be? Would it be clearly “Yes, Maybe or No?”
My sisters and brothers in Christ, “When Jesus asks us whether we are willing to take up the cross, He is does not simply want to put burdens on our shoulders. Neither is Jesus wanting us to suffer unnecessarily. The cross is not about burden of following Jesus, the “cross” is about love; the “cross” is about how much and how deeply do we love God and thus, how willing are we to pay the price for that love. The “cross” in our lives, like Jesus is about showing God our Father that living His Will for us is the ultimate meaning and purpose of our life on earth.
To conclude, let us remind ourselves that unless we know Jesus personally and can answer the His question, “Who do you say that I am” with clarity and confidence, we cannot claim that we know ourselves well or love truly love ourselves. To be ignorant of who Jesus is, is like the tone-deaf person arguing about music and the blind person talking about rainbow colours and more seriously, like the proud and self-centred person causing much hurts and harm to people in their lives and refusing to follow Jesus who has offered him the map of life and the compassion to lead and guide him in life. And, in rejecting Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life prefers to ask strangers in their lives who are as lost as him in this world or worse still, chooses to continue to be lost in life.
And so, when Jesus asks us, “Who do you say that I am?” Would our answer be “Lord you are the Way, the Truth and the Life?” And when Jesus then asks us “Are you willing to take up the cross to follow me?” Will we say be giving excuses of not following Him or are we immediately going to say, Lord, show me the way, and give me the wisdom to stay close to You regardless of the crosses that I have to carry?”
The choice we ought to take is obvious. But, the decision of whether we want to know Jesus personally has to be made clearly and firmly . . . now and always.
Fr Philip Heng,S.J.
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