Q and A

A drunk that smelled like a brewery got on a bus one day. He sat down next to a priest. The drunk's shirt was stained, his face was full of bright red lipstick and he had a half-empty bottle of wine sticking out of his pocket. He opened his newspaper and started reading. A couple minutes later, he asked the priest, "Father, what causes arthritis?" "Mister, it's caused by loose living, being with cheap, wicked women, too much alcohol, and contempt for your fellow man," the priest replied.

"Imagine that," the drunk muttered. He returned to reading his paper. The priest, thinking about what he had said, turned to the man and apologized: "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to come on so strong. How long have you had arthritis?" "I don't have arthritis, Father," the drunk said, "but I just read in the paper that the Pope does."

It always pays to find out why the question is being asked. The disciples were eyewitnesses to all the miracles that Jesus did. They listened to him with such awe and admiration that their lives were dramatically changed. They followed him because they knew Jesus was unique and special.

Jesus wanted to know whether in their heart they really knew him. If their eyes prevented them from seeing what was beyond ordinary, at least their hearts would feel something. Jesus assumed that their minds may forget, but their hearts will always remember.

“Who do you say that I am?” he asked them. It is like asking the question, “How well do you really know me?” Or “Who am I to you?” Most of them gave different answers. Except for Peter who told Jesus, “You are the Christ.” The name Christ means Anointed, the Savior, the Messiah.

Peter believed in his heart that the Savior they had been waiting for centuries was Jesus. When Jesus told them about rejection, suffering and death, Peter began to rebuke our good Lord. With his good intentions, the Messiah Peter had in his mind was not the Messiah that Jesus was in his totality.

Turning around and looking at his disciples, He said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Get behind because Peter was trying to get ahead of him. Get behind because Peter had forgotten that God should be first and him next. Get behind because he was getting ahead of God. And sadly, that is what many of us do. For some of us, God is secondary in our plans. Some of us live not according to God’s will, but according to what we want.
When we tend to get ahead of God, when we tell God what to do with our lives, when we complain and bicker at the sufferings we endure, the rejections we face, the death we fear, be reminded of what Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind me.”

Then Jesus told them about what it meant to be a disciple: denying oneself, taking up his cross and following him. It takes a process to follow him. There is a need first of all to let go of one’s ego. Those who are selfish and self-centered, Ego stands for Edging God Out. But to a follower of Jesus, Ego has a different meaning. It means Embracing God Only.

Then we have to take up our own cross, which is a voluntary choice. This is where the element of sacrifice comes in. Crosses are hard to bear and we need God to help us, weak human beings. The load is lightened in carrying our own crosses when we allow God’s grace to enter our lives. And His grace easily gets through whenever we love. Love can bear all things, even rejection, suffering, death.

Who is Jesus for us? The question was asked. What could be our answer? There was an old gentleman who was asked by his grandson, “How old are you, Grandpa?” He replied teasingly, "I am not sure." "Look in your underwear," he advised, "mine says I'm 4 to 6."

It is good to find out why the question is being asked. But, it is better to give the right answer when the question comes, “Who do you say Jesus is?”

13 September 2009

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