In high school, I had a friend that was very suspicious of organized religion, and specifically, Christianity. What was his problem? He saw too many Christians not living up to the faith. And so, he said to me, “I respect the person Jesus Christ. But I do not believe he was God – just an outstanding moral/social teacher.” Gandhi had a similar issue. After reading the Gospels he famously said that if he ever met a Christian who actually lived out the Christian life, he would become a follower of Jesus Christ. Wow…
This view, that Jesus was merely a good moral teacher, never sat well with me. Intuitively, even though this young man is very smart, it seemed odd to say, “Jesus was a good man, but he wasn’t who he says he was!” How can someone be such an outstanding moral teacher and lie about who he is at the same time?
Jesus asks us this weekend, Who do you say that I am? And the disciples respond: Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Then Peter speaks, Jesus, you are the Christ the Son of the living God. Peter gets it right. He recognizes that the person Jesus Christ is someone greater than the prophets – he is God among us! And Jesus blesses Peter and says, Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
So what we have here is that knowledge of who Christ is – or rather – the process of coming to know the Divine Person Jesus Christ, happens through the Church. Upon Peter, says Christ, will I build my Church, because Peter knows that Christ is the Son of the living God. The purpose of the Church is to bring all of us into an encounter with Christ.
Here’s the question I have been reflecting on… why is it difficult for good people like my friend and Gandhi to see who Christ is? I think the answer is humbling. The answer lies in the recent events of our country. I find the increased racial tension in our country very disheartening. The challenge in following Jesus Christ is that he has called us to be “One Body”, members of His Church, where race no longer divides us. The unfortunate reality today is that there are many Christians who perpetuate the sin of racism. The sins of many Christians has caused great evil in the world. Therefore, they do not want to belong to “a church” but will respect the moral and social teachings of Jesus Christ as a good man.
If Jesus were to ask each of us today, Who do you say that I am, What would we say? My friends, this is the challenge for all of us this weekend. We are called to know who Christ is. This is why we have the Church. This is why we come every Sunday because we need to learn who Christ is in the Scriptures. We need to be fed and nourished by Christ in the Eucharist. And finally, we truly need the love and support of each other as a faith community. And My friends, this is the challenged, all of us here are called to actually live out the Christian life, and to do that we must imitate Christ. Friends, Gandhi once said that we must be the change that we wish to see in the world. If we truly want racism to end in this country. If we truly want others to know just how much Christ loves them. Then we have to know who Christ is, become more like him, and live like Christ in the world.