“Personal Queries” by Fr. Joel

“If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it.”

Let’s imagine Jesus being physically present m our contemporary times. Let’s imagine further himself posting a comment in His Facebook or Twitter account: ‘”Who do people say that I am?”. Then, reposting His comment to His close friends or to people who befriended Him in the social network: “But who do you say that I am?” These queries are very interesting because this concerns an individual who is so interested in others, and their impressions about him. Jesus is not afraid of what people will tell Him. He wants to know their impressions about Him. He is more interested in listening to their comments and not just clicking the ”LIKE” box in His network page.

One day when Jesus was praying alone in the presence of His disciples, He put this question to them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” (vs. 18.)This query clearly tells us that it is a product of Jesus’ discernment. The scene is in a very serious mode. The situation is ”He was praying alone.” It seemed that when He asked His disciples this question (whatever was in His mind), the consciousness or mindfulness of His disciples was being challenged. Jesus was developing in them the ability to use their “senses” in following Him. Perhaps, He is developing in them that “role-modelling” attitude. Be that as it may, the tone of Jesus was felt in the immediately following queries when they answered: “John the Baptist, others Elijah, and others one of the ancient prophets come back to life.” These are good people, role models in the practice of the faith, and perhaps, this is really what Jesus was driving at.

The query of Jesus however was reduced into a very personal question: “But you,” He said ”who do you say I am?” This response of Jesus is an invitation to know Him all the more. He wants his disciples to know him deeply – his aspirations, dreams, indepth impressions about him, about his life. When such query is reduced into a very personal level, this means that there is an established relationship that was already developed There is a very close encounter – heart to heart, mind to mind, soul to soul- that has transpired. It is like “I am close to you now. I am ready to listen to your affirmations and admonitions.” Imagine a husband and wife in their old age talking about their beautiful experiences in the past, over a cup of coffee. Imagine best friends who have not met for years reminiscing their past. Imagine a boyfriend and a girlfriend under a tree, holding hands together, praying that God will have a better future in store for them. It is through these instances that the encounter becomes personal and up close, that the spirit of knowing ”the other” leads to a closer tie, a deeper relationship.

Jesus is very interested in us. In the first place, we are the reason for His coming. We are the reason for His sacrifice, for His dying on the cross. And we are the reason for His coming again. Every now and then, He reminded His apostles about this. But some of them, if not most of them are not keen in knowing him more. That is why He would tell them” How slow you are in understanding all these things.” The Scripture says that ”they were able to realize many things only” after His Resurrection. Itwas only Peter who spoke up when Jesus queried them about Himself:” You are the Christ of God”. (vs 20) But He gave them strict orders not to tell anyone anything about this. Why? Because He doesn’t want them to do a “shortcut” on the very purpose of His coming. He doesn’t want them to miss the whole script of His life written through the will of the Father. Jesus wants us to learn every inch of His story. Thus, the reason why He is very interested in letting the apostles know ”Who He is” as the God, made-man. “The Son of Man” He said “is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders, chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.” This is the Paschal Mystery, the story of Jesus that He wants us to know and participate in. It is through this mystery that the wholeness of our being can experience the life of our Saviour. So, why should we complain if there are sufferings in our midst? Why should we lose hope when everything seems to be lifeless? Why should we worry when we are assured that there is more to this life of ours after death?

Then Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him
renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. (vs 23) I guess these are clear conditions that Jesus is reminding us of. If we want to become his authentic followers then we have to find a way how we can abide by these conditions and thus develop meaningful lives.

Nowadays, the Roman Catholic Church in the country is bombarded with many issues regarding inconsistent faith practices of both the clergy and the faithful. These experiences are in no way different from the same issues thrown at the face of our Church. And for these, we should repeat time and again the words: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me.”

“For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it.”

Have we done something good for our Church and have we defended our faith? Have we ever followed the advise of Jesus when faced with the same difficulties? Do we really know Jesus?

as published on June 23, 2013, Parish Bulletin