Homily: 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Readings of the Day

It’s not easy learning to use a lightsaber. It’s not easy to learn anything from scratch, the initial notes on a new instrument or first try behind the wheel of a car are always awkward. Luke Skywalker was having a tough time trying to use a lightsaber under Obi-Wan’s instruction, trying to let the Force flow through him to fight off a robot hovering nearby and shooting at him. He could block some of the shots, but it kept zapping him in uncomfortable ways. Then the old man did something crazy: he put a helmet on Luke to keep him from using his eyes, so he’d have to use his other senses to find the robot’s location and block its shots. It took a minute, but he was able to get it, and when he did, everything changed. The Force gave him a new perspective on reality, and he was able do to things he thought was impossible before. He was able to start the path to becoming Jedi knight, he would never be an ordinary farm boy again.

Peter, like most of Jesus’ disciples, was an ordinary guy. He was a fisherman, thought he’d be a fisherman all his life, until Jesus called him out of his boat. Theology and other intellectual pursuits weren’t his strong suit, the visiting rabbis didn’t choose him as a teenager to follow them. The disciples are up north of the Sea of Galilee in a lush area with lots of waterfalls; a nice place to rest, relax and regroup. Jesus wants to find out how things are going with His ministry, so asks his disciples a good question, “Who do people say I am?” They give him pretty standard answers: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, one of the minor prophets. These aren’t very far from the way most of the world sees Jesus today, as a teacher, a prophet, a wise man, a seeker of peace. Then comes the key question: “Who do you say I am?”

We know the answer, but they didn’t. The disciples had a hard time grasping who Jesus really was’ they knew He was a miracle worker, a powerful teacher, a dynamic presence, but He was in obviously in a category by himself and they had a hard time putting words to it. He surely didn’t fit the prediction of a Messiah they’d grown up with. Peter has his moment of insight right then, as if a light’s gone on, or he’s learned to see in a different way. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” For one brief moment, the Spirit is flowing through Peter to give him this realization. This is the turning point of the story, now Jesus can take everybody to a new level, talk to them about things he hasn’t been able to before. Now they can see better what he’s trying to tell them. Peter is the first, and his lead is going to be important for everyone, especially after Jesus returns to his Father. It means Peter and his friends won’t go back to their ordinary lives again, they will be a new creation going on a path they never expected to travel.

We’re ordinary people, trying to make a living, trying to learn, trying to find out what life is all about, and how to live it. This is a time of year we start new journeys, start learning new skills, start trying to put things together in our lives in new ways. Jesus asks us the same question He asked his disciples way back then: “Who do you say I am?” How we answer that question makes all the difference in our lives, this is the key thing that makes us Christian. To say Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God is a huge statement and a huge challenge. It isn’t just enough to repeat Peter’s answer, we need to embrace his answer with all our hearts. When we can say in all honesty, “You are the Christ, Son of the living God,” everything comes into focus, everything makes sense, we can see with a sense that keeps us in harmony with the universe. Jesus comes to us today and becomes part of us, transforms us into His vision of us, the best us we can possibly be. All it takes is using that God-given insight, that gift of the Spirit, that helps us to see Christ in the here and now, and guide us every day of our lives. Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God is the starting point of our lives, wherever we go, whatever we do. As we continue our lives of learning new things and developing new skills, this is the touchstone, the reference point for everything we are and everything we will be.

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