“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” ( Matthew 16, 15-16)
I always get a chuckle when I pass the billboard just round the corner from our Church. It says : “Need Muscles For the Millennium? We can help! Contact Us!” Excellent promotion. Jesus Christ perhaps cannot help us much in building our biceps, muscles and joints… But He has definitely a word to say on our spiritual muscles. Life is a journey and on this journey we need sturdy feet and strong arms and a good heart!
The Fantastic In Death
I found this story remarkable in its simplicity. A pastor found himself seated on a flight just besides a well known theologian. They started talking and this man told the pastor how he had recently lost one of his kids. “He had come home from school with a fever and we thought it was just one of those childhood things, but it was a very virulent form of meningitis. The doctor said we cannot save your little boy. He’ll die.”
And so this father, loving his son as he did, sat by the bedside to watch this death vigil. It was the middle of the day and the little boy whose strength was going from him and whose vision and brain was getting clouded said, “Daddy, it’s getting dark isn’t it?” The professor said to his son, “Yes son it is getting dark, very dark.” Of course it was very dark for him. He said, “Daddy, I guess it’s time for me to go to sleep isn’t it?”
He said, “Yes, son, it’s time for you to go to sleep.”
The professor said the little fellow had a way of fixing his pillow just so, and putting his head on his hands when he slept and he fixed his pillow like that and laid his head on his hands and said, “Good night Daddy. I will see you in the morning.” He then closed his eyes in death and stepped over into heaven.
The professor didn’t say one word more. He just turned his face, looking out through the window of the plane for a long, long time. Finally he turned his face – scalding tears were coming down his cheeks – and just uttered, “Reverend, I can hardly wait till the morning.”
Yes, a morning is coming. And we are moving towards this morning. When you cut all the frills and go down to the basics, this is what life is all about. Life is a journey towards this morning. And there is one question which is really crucial if we would like to travel well on this journey. The question is “Who do you say that I am?” This is not a theoretical question. It is the most urgent, the most relevant, the most theological question that confronts us today. Where ever we turn in life, we are faced with the implications of this question. I believe it was Martin Luther, who once wrote: “I care not whether he be Christ, but that he be Christ for you.”
The Fantastic in Life
All of us have basic needs which needs to be satisfied. When I am hungry, I eat. When I am thirsty, I drink. When I am warm, I put on the air conditioning. My lungs need air to breath. My eyes need light to see. If we satisfy properly these needs, then we shall lead a healthy life; if not, we become sick. If we too much junk food, too much fat or too much cholesterol, then yes, we satisfy our hunger but we are killing ourselves. If when we are thirsty instead of drinking water or pop, we drink wine or whisky, then we are satisfying our needs but we are destroying ourselves…
The same with our spiritual needs. There are three basic psychological needs. – love, esteem, feeling useful in life. All of us need to be loved. All of us need to be esteemed. All of us need to feel worthwhile and productive in life. If we satisfy these needs well, then we are walking on well on our journey towards the other side. If not, we suffer. This morning there was an article in the papers which said that suicide among elderly people, especially men, has become an epidemic. The probable causes according to this study are depression, loneliness and declining physical abilities. Older men takes their own lives four to six times more than the rate for women. Men feel useless and so they kill themselves.
Many offer solutions. Healthy food, physical exercise, involve yourself in social activities, build a healthy relationship, more holidays… all good and wonderful. But they only touch the surface. Just a look around us will suffice. Successful people divorce. Young athletes are on steroids. Many people stressed out. These solutions only alleviate the problem. They do not solve it.
The Fantastic in Jesus
It may seem stale and naive. But the simple truth is that the only one who can satisfy fully and completely these needs is someone called Jesus Christ. He is the only one we need to contact if we want to build our spiritual muscles for the new millennium!
Why? Because He is the only One who keeps loving us even when we do not deserve to be loved. He is the only who keeps appreciating us even when we fail miserably in life. He is the only one who keeps believing in our importance even when we are no longer useful to our society. That is the truth. That is why the question ‘who is he for you?’ is so important.
Yes, who is He for you? Just a Sunday Mass thing? Just a healer whom you ask for help when in something in your life needs repair? Just an emotion to make you feel good? A law-enforcer with his commandments and precepts? A sentimental idealist? A Superstar? Just like the apostles, many times we do not move beyond the established possibilities. Just another religious thing…
However, with Peter, we can move one step ahead. You are “the Christ (Messiah), Son of the living God”. The Messiah. The God. The One without whom we cannot live. The most important and urgent! The One whom we can trust always, everywhere.
Just today in a letter the Pope sent to the annual Communion And Liberation meeting being held in Rimini, he asks “Why not acknowledge what man most needs? … Man cannot redeem himself; Redemption comes from Christ. In looking toward him, one understands that the origin of everything is love. This is the mystery that creates and rules the entire cosmos. …. Only by choosing this road can insecurity be vanquished, which is at the root of so much violence among men. Only in this way, will every desire of man to discover the mysterious aspects of events, which could otherwise generate anxiety, be open instead to wonder.”
Someone once uttered this powerful prayer. “Lord, take my lips and speak through them, take my mind and think through it, take my heart and set it on fire for love of you”. As long as we remain the church – Jesus Christ promised – the gates of Hades will not prevail against us.
Just a simple self analysis. How much time do I invest in knowing Him better? Each week. Let me compare that amount of time with the time I put on other things. I may be surprised! Very surprised indeed.
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.