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Homily for twelfth Sunday year C

17 Jun 2016, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sermons

who-do-you-say-that-I-amWe take our first reading from the Prophet Zechariah’s book, a book that is not very popular amongst many Christians like those of prophet Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. The text of the prophet Zechariah is divided into two; the first part has to do with the prophecies and visions about the restoration of Jerusalem, the purification of God’s people, and the messianic age to come. The second part, which begins from chapter nine, is more of a collection of messages about the expected Messiah, and our first reading today is from the second part of this book.

Our first reading opens with a compelling statement; “it is the Lord who speaks.” When the Lord speaks, nobody dare contradicts him; what he says he will do is what he will do. God spoke; he said he would pour out a spirit of kindness and prayer over David’s house and the citizens of Jerusalem by making them look on the one they have pierced. It was a message of the passion of the coming Messiah, a passion that would open a fountain of mercy for the house of David and for the citizens of Jerusalem, a fountain that would purify the people of their sins. Therefore, the passion of Jesus Christ is a blessing, and that is why the cross is for us a sign of victory and not defeat or shame. To look on the one in the faith whom they have pierced releases the outpouring of the spirit of kindness and prayer from God, from the heart of the one whom they have pierced flows kindness, mercy, and love.

When he who was to be pierced entered the world, when the Messiah, Jesus, entered the world, he asked if the people recognized him. “Who do the crowds say I am? And they answered John the Baptist; others Elijah; and others say one of the ancient prophets come back to life. But you, he said, who do you say I am?”

There are two very important questions here; “who do people say I am?” And “who do you say I am?” The first question is about what others feel about Jesus, while the second question is about what you feel about Jesus. It is very easy to talk about other people; when we focus the searchlight on others, we remain in darkness, we pretend, conceal our weaknesses, mistakes and hide in our comfort zones. When we focus on others and forget our own weaknesses, we deny ourselves the opportunity of self-examination and envelop ourselves with the spirit of self-righteousness. But Jesus turned the searchlight around and focused it on the apostles; forget about who people say I am, who do you yourselves say I am? To this question, Peter alone answered, “you are Christ the Son of the living God.”

I always insist that Peter did not answer for the other apostles, he answered for himself, and that was why he was given the “keys.” The same question Jesus puts before us today; who do you say I am? He is not asking us who people say he is, but who we say he is. He expects individual answers from us, and the answer we give is as important as it was over two thousand years ago. The Church is built upon the faith with which Peter answered the question, and our relationship with God will be built on the answer we give to this same question.

Who is Jesus for you? For some, he may be just a miracle worker, a great historical figure, and for some others, the Son of Joseph and Mary. Who is he for you? The way we relate with him depends on who we think he is. If we see him as a miracle worker, then we would follow him for a miracle. Christianity is gradually becoming a religion of miracles today because so many Christians now see Jesus as a mere miracle worker, a magician. Christianity is no longer seen by many as a religion of relationship in faith. We must learn to grow in our spirituality, learn to move upward, move from what I call the spirituality of just avoidance (Just avoiding sins with no personal relationship with God) to the spirituality of relationship. This movement depends on who we see Jesus be; if we see him as just a miracle worker, we relate with him as such, and if we believe that he is the messiah, we relate with him on a different and higher level.

In our gospel reading today, Jesus warned the apostles not to tell anyone that he is the Messiah, he told the apostles that he would suffer and die but will rise the third day; a confirmation of the prophecies in our first reading that says that the house of David and the citizens of Jerusalem will look on the one whom they pierced. The apostles were warned not to tell the people that he is the Messiah to avoid people following him based on miracles and let the people discover who he is. Personal discovery of who Jesus is and our relationship with him is very important. Do not follow the “historical” Jesus, do not follow the Jesus that lived but no longer live, do not follow the Jesus people “talk” about; rather follow the Jesus you personally know. Do you know him? Who do you say he is?

I believe and follow him not because of who people say he is but because of who I know. Because I know he is God, I am not afraid to trust and follow him. In good and in bad times, he is the Lord; he is the King who was, who is and who is to come. To him be glory now and forever, Amen.

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