“Who do you say that I am?” Lk 9:18-24 A question Jesus of Nazareth asks His disciples after a prayer to His Father. The disciples respond with what the crowds say; “John the Baptist” or “Elijah.” Yet another states a prophet. But that is not the question. Jesus is seeking a very personal response. Jesus seeks not the response of a crowd, but of each individual, and that is personal. Today in history, I can rephrase His question. I can ask who is the Jesus that the disciples knew. He is the Jesus of the Nativity, and at their point in time, the Jesus before the Passion. Peter’s response is the Messiah, and Christ or Christos translates Messiah. Peter had an idea who Jesus was. In that very word is the reason Jesus told them to tell no one of His identity. Messiah had a defined meaning, and for Christians that meaning changes after Jesus’s resurrection. The Apostles could only answer a question with the information they had, yet for humanity Jesus Christ unfolds. Messiah would have limited Jesus the Christ to an earthly king of the order of David. The Christ of the resurrection becomes much more, The Christ of the Ascension even more so, and then the Pentecost. “Who do you say that I am?” Their response is written on their testament precisely as Jesus taught them. It is where Jesus delivers a response. “I am the bread come down from heaven.” “I am the bread of life.” “I am the way the truth and the light.”
Who do we say He is? For us today we include, the Easter Christ, the Christ of the Eucharist. We also include the mystical body of Christ that is the Church. Christ unfolds, and so who do “we” say that He is? How do we describe Jesus the Christ? Is it by word, or by action? By word I imply a definition like one from a dictionary. That question “Who do you say that I am”, is asked of Christians today. Our response is given every day, through word and action. I wonder how many times my answer has changed in my lifetime? How we live today is how we deliver a response. It is a lifetime of actions that becomes our response. Our Actions in defining Christ gives reason to the urgency of pondering the question. It is after all a question that was asked after prayerful meditation. That meditation implies what is needed for a response. Plainly put that is prayer. The response is not academic, but personal and even emotional. Not answered by an institution, but an individual. Certainly catechism can help formulate a response, but it is not the response. The same can be said of cannon law, and creed, and doctrine. They aid in the formation of an answer, but these do not deliver a response. The response comes from the individual and it is delivered from their soul. One that dies to the world and rises in Jesus. If one knows who Jesus is, one learns how to act which is the definition of discipleship. “Who do you say that I am” is a question I cannot answer for anyone, I think how I should answer it even for myself. Its a tough question.
When Jesus entered Capernaum,
a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying,
“Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.”
He said to him, “I will come and cure him.”
The centurion said in reply,
“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof;
only say the word and my servant will be healed.”
That last line. I am not worthy that GOD should enter under my roof. Whose roof do we live under, ours or the Lords?. It is the fool that thinks they are the lord, and that all is under their authority’ their own roof. The centurion was no fool, humbled before Jesus, and respectful when he asked the Lord to visit his domain. I think this sometimes is where we get that saying on our currency, in God we trust. In God we trust is another way of saying we dwell under the Lords authority. “Lord I am not worthy” is the quote we recite before receiving the Eucharist. First a reminder of humility, to bow before the Lord. Second, a reminder that God does enter our lives when we call out as the centurion did. Jesus does enter into our lives. Jesus does heal those who allow him into their lives.
Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof. I think of that phrase too as it relates to our coin, In God we Trust. How it relates to our constitution, One nation under God. But do we dwell in the house of the Lord, are we still one nation under God? I wonder, do we dwell under Gods domain or our own? I see that phrase, in God we trust, but I wonder. Do we trust in God, or do we trust in freedom and the “American way?” Which is more important, Gods trust or our liberty. What do we desire more; Gods trust, and the willingness to let God enter into our lives , or Lady Liberty as personified by that statue in a New York harbor? Is it Gods way, or the American way? Lord I am not worth that you should enter under my roof, only say the word and my soul shall be healed.
The celebration of these two disciples seems to be a fitting summation of this past weeks readings. It was Saint Irenaeus who was instrumental in guaranteeing the Apostles gospel message received from Jesus was faithfully transferred to the following generations. It was Paul that delivered this message outside of his own culture to a gentile people eager to understand Jesus teachings.It was Peter who was first instructed to tend to Jesus’s flock. Throughout the week I continued to notice that Jesus did not preach to only one group, or one nationality.He preached to all who were receptive to Gods word. The teachings applied to all, yet I kept taking away the message that the underlying message was that God was available to all, that Jesus was continuously opening up the God of the Israelites to all peoples. Now at the end of this weeks gospel message comes the celebration of Peter and Paul. Peter, “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church..”and Paul the apostle to the Gentiles.Peter is the one that walked with Christ while Paul’s experience was with the Easter Christ.Peter started out as a disciple, yet frequently stumbled in his faith. He grew into the faithful preacher of the Gospel and defended the word with his life. Paul started out as a persecutor of Christianity ,”Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” , yet also ends up preaching and defending this teachings of Jesus.Peter and Paul start out in different paths, yet reach the same destination.They enter the narrow gate and follow the narrow path. Peter who delivers this message to its original and intended Jewish recipients ; and Paul who also delivers the message to its intended Gentile people. A gospel faithfully preached to all nations as Jesus intended. Paul who seeks Peters guidance in delivering this gospel to a people likely unfamiliar with Hebrew culture, and Peter who counsels his colleague.Most importantly Peter who accepts Paul as a disciple even though Paul originally was his persecutor.Just as Jesus continued to accept Peter though he denied him three times! It is through these traditions that this message was delivered to me.It was made available to me as it was to members of all nation. It was delivered faithful to Christ’s teachings. It also rests on a firm foundation so that this tradition can continue.
Gnosticism is a type of religious beliefs and spiritual practices found among some of the early and pre-Christian groups.Their name, Gnostics, comes from the Greek word for knowledge:gnōsis. Gnostic thought salvation came through the knowledge of esoteric spiritual truths that were revealed to a special class individual sand that salvation could be granted to others by members of this special class.Gnostics borrowed heavily from Christianity, it also was one of the earliest forms of Heresy.Gnostics Claimed access to secret knowledge imparted by Jesus to only a few disciples, their teachings was attracted and confused many Christians. Saint Augustine, before converting to Christianity, was a follower of a form of Gnosticism.
Saint Irenaeus was born about the year 125, in Smyrna of Asia Minor(now İzmir, Turkey). He was influenced by St. Polycarp, who had known the apostles or their immediate disciples.In Irenaeus time many priests from Asia minor brought the gospel to the Gaul’s of modern France . Irenaeus came to serve as a priest to these people of Lyon(France).He was sent to Rome,then returned to Lyons to become Bishop.When he returned to France,Gnosticism had taken hold .
Gnostic heresies were challenging many of the Christians in his diocese. This threat inspired him to challenge the Heresies by authoring a treatise in five books called Adversus Haereses or Against Heresies . In these volumes Irenaeus detailed the doctrines of the various Gnostic sects, and then contrasted them with the teaching of the Apostles and Holy Scripture. It was the work of Saint Irenaeus removed the threat of Gnosticism on true Christian teachings.
Saint Irenaeus was buried under the Church of Saint John in Lyon, which was later renamed St Irenaeus in his honor. The tomb and his remains were destroyed in 1562 by the Huguenots.The exact date of his death is unknown, and he is considered to be a martyr for the faith.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing,
but underneath are ravenous wolves.
By their fruits you will know them.
Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?
Just so, every good tree bears good fruit,
and a rotten tree bears bad fruit.
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit,
nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down
and thrown into the fire.
So by their fruits you will know them.”
Jesus sets up some things that look like simple comparisons on the surface, yet the more you think about this small bit of teaching the more questioning one has to do. The comparison of a wolf in sheep’s clothing is simple enough. People are not always what they seem. Judge someone not by their appearance, but by what they produce. The story continues with a little about the fruit and its plant:grapes don’t come from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles. True.Grapes grapes come from grapevines and thorn bushes don’t produce fruit. Each fruit is related to its plant.Good trees produce good fruit, bad trees produce bad fruit, some trees produce no fruit. Fruit is is the work of the plant, to an orchard owner it is what gives value to a tree. The grape vine was a historic symbol of Israel . Grapevines produce grapes, a good fruit. Wouldn’t oranges or dates, or figs, or olives also be considered good fruits? If grapes could be a symbol of Israel, couldn’t these other fruits be symbols of Israel’s neighbors? Does only one type of tree produce good fruit? Can only one nation be good and prosperous? If a nation is can produce just a little good fruit, could a little cultivation improve its yield.Finally if one should be careful of wolves in sheep’s clothing, how should someone react to a sheep in wolves clothing?
In one way the story can be interpreted is beware of false prophets and be productive lest your unproductivity lead to your destruction. It contains good advice for an individual. Another interpretation can be drawn by reading the story in terms of a complex society. Each society can be valued for what it produces and be careful how you judge a society. How one views another culture can be deceiving, it can be difficult. As Jesus addressed his disciples, each person in the group might have considered themselves the good fruit from the good tree.Yet each person looking at their neighbor might have perceived something differently. A hard working, prosperous, productive, and generous Samaritan might constantly strive to be fruitful; but would a righteous first century Jew recognize this person as “the good fruit”, they were enemies after all! Perhaps the focus of the story was to get Jesus’s disciples to recognize the benefits of who they were. Perhaps Jesus wanted to guide his disciples to value of all parts of society and all societies that were good, that were fruitful. Perhaps Jesus wanted his disciples to see just how abundant Gods Kingdom was.