September 13, 2009
ORDINARY 24 (B)
Who do you say that I am? – Mark 8: 29
Over the centuries, there have been as many different answers to this question as there are people. We all tend to see Jesus as we are, as we want Him, need Him, to be. Every era, in short, makes our Lord over in its own image & likeness. In the early Church, people had trouble discerning His humanity. Today, we find it hard to discern His divinity.
This self-projection rule for us today means we see Him as Jesus Lite, that is, we see Him as our buddy, the friend who gives a thumbs up & winks. He is sweet, non-judgmental, a pussycat, a heck of a nice fella, but not one who, in the long run, really inspires you & certainly not someone you would die for – or live for, for that matter.
In the National Study of Youth & Religion, published not long ago, it was revealed that American teenagers are not hostile to religion. Why? Because for them religion is simply not a big deal, & (except for the Evangelical kids) Jesus is not a big deal. Although He is an important person, He is not viewed as being very strong or challenging, & certainly not demanding. The attitude was that Jesus forgives everything we do in the end, so everyone goes to heaven when they die. You couldn’t ask for a nicer guy. Unfortunately, this is not the Jesus described in the Gospels.
Youth, by definition, is passionate, & we serve them up a passionless Jesus, full of platitudes but no spine. Youth want to make a difference & we offer them a lifeless wimp. Where is the Jesus who said He came to bring a sword, not peace, who shouted at us to tear out our eye if it was accessing porn on the internet, who tells us to shun the revenge & violence so dear to the TV, movies & video games & forgive those who offend us.
The Jesus of the Gospels is countercultural & courageous & strong & determined – or he never would have endured His excruciating passion & death. After His resurrection He proudly wore His scars as a sign that the kingdom of God is won with a lot of sweat, not given.
He’s about a way of life, about the decisions we make in business & school, about honesty & caring & concern for others. Above all He’s about truth. He’s about life, here & hereafter, for those who listen to Him, & not much life for those who don’t. He’s principled as well as merciful; demanding as well as forgiving, provided we repent; full of love indeed, but a tough love that is NOT content to look the other way, but which desperately wants us to grow, to be holy, to be saints. He will settle for nothing less.
If our young people have not met this Jesus, one wonders if we have. How would we answer His question? Does the Jesus we know excite us, challenge us, make us nervous with His demands, yet also make us want to know more about Him & follow & love Him? A lot rides on our answer to His question. AMEN!