After the homily some photos, a few of which were taken at Penn State.
Imagine you are one of the disciples with Jesus at the beginning of this particular Gospel reading. Recreate the scene in your mind. Is it morning or evening? Did it take place indoors or out? Add as many or as few details as you wish. Now focus in more closely. Is Jesus sitting or standing? Are you close to him or a bit removed? What about you? What are you feeling as you listen to him? Joy? Fear? Impatience? Fatigue? What does Jesus’ voice sound like? What about the two questions he asks?
Speech, the act of using words to communicate, is fascinating. In most Western languages, how one stresses a particular syllable, where the accent is placed in a sentence or phrase, may subtly, or not so subtly, affect the meaning and interpretation of what is being said. The tone of voice in which something is said influences the listener. There is a big difference between, what did you say? and WHAT! did you say?!?
Most of us can tell in the first few moments of a phone conversation whether the speaker is in a good mood, a bad mood, angry, sad or happy. Of course, others can read us just as easily.
Today's Gospel demands that we consider not only what Jesus asked but how he asked it. We have to consider what Jesus is asking us and how we are going to respond.
Jesus asked two questions. The first was general and informational, “Who do the crowds say I am?” What are people saying about me? In some ways the question was rhetorical, not demanding much of an answer. Jesus’ second question was much more specific. It was, and is, personal. It demanded a concrete answer from each of the disciples. Jesus’ second question demands a specific answer from each of us. And that is where the dilemma of intonation, inflection and vocal stress becomes apparent.
How did Jesus ask the question?
But who do you say that I am?
How did the apostles hear it?
But who do you say that I am?
How do we hear it today?
But who do you say I am?
How does each of us hear the question? How will each of us answer it? No matter what the emphasis, inflection or intonation might have been, this is the most difficult question Jesus asked his apostles. It is the most difficult question he asks us. It is the most difficult question we can ask ourselves. But who do you say I am? Everything depends on our answer.
Peter’s answer was brief and accurate. In the context of the time no explanation was necessary. “You are the Messiah of God.” Peter’s answer contained within it, You are the One Who is to Come, You are the Promised On, You are the Hope of Israel. And much more.
Peter’s statement was radical. It was courageous. Had he publicly proclaimed “You are the Messiah of God” he would have been charged with blasphemy. Blasphemy was a capital crime in those days. Of course today blasphemy of the worst sort against the name of Jesus is considered hip humor for fools like Bill Maher, the truly awful Margaret Cho, and other pathetic figures who call themselves comedians and comediennes, but that is another homily.
The Church proclaims her answer to Jesus’ question at the beginning of the Vigil Mass of Easter. As he incises the paschal candle the priest proclaims:
"Christ yesterday and today
the beginning and the end
Alpha and Omega
all time belongs to him
and all the ages.
To him be glory and power
through every age for ever."
The beginning and the end. The Alpha and the Omega. That says it all. He was present before the beginning. He will be present after the end. He is eternal. All time belongs to Him and He transcends all time.
The Church can boldly proclaim this because those of us born since Peter’s radical profession of faith we have not had to wonder about Jesus’ identity. We have not had to wait. From the moment of conception we have lived in a world in which the promise has been fulfilled. In which the Kingdom of God is active. From the first instant of life in our mother's womb we were in the presence of the One for whom the world had waited.
We heard in the second reading, “Through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ . . . if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant according to the promise.” And so, we can sing joyfully with the psalmist, as we answer Jesus’ second question:
“You are my help,
in the shadow of your wings
I shout for joy.
My soul clings fast to you;
your right hand upholds me.”
As you go through the rest of today, mull over Jesus’ question, “But who do you say I am?” Listen to how He asks that question. Listen to your answer. It is important.
A week ago today we had a medium-sized thunderstorm. The rainbows were amazing. I had to drive to Newtonville, about six or seven miles away. The rainbow followed me all the way, changing in intensity depending on the angle of view. Many drivers stopped to take photos. The first is how it looked behind Campion. The other I took while waiting at a red light on Washington St. I don't recommend this second method for getting photos.
Way back I used Photoshop. This is a fantasy adjustment of Georgetown. Not sure I have a lot of use for something like this on a daily basis.
These next two are color manipulations of a small pond in D.C. at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The ability to change the tint and experience of color with Aperture is fascinating.
Finally, Penn State. The Informational Technology Building is amazing. It arches over the highway to the newly developing West Campus (and the golf courses). The reflections are fascinating. Would love to get there some night.
Al and Karen have a lovely garden in the house where they've lived for about 30 years. We spent over an hour sitting back there, having a beer and chatting. They have a "flower" made of old spoons with a prismatic center. Over the hour I kept getting up to take pix of the color in the center. It got more intense as the sun went down creating the correct angle. The first is the entire piece and the second is a tighter focus on the center.
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD