Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Keys

Dark and rainy here today...but a rainy Sunday afternoon might be just what the doctor ordered.

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

When Pope Benedict landed in Madrid
for World Youth Day this weekend,
they got all of his luggage loaded into the limousine,
but he remained standing outside the car on the curb.
“Is their something wrong, your Holiness?” the driver asked.
“To tell you the truth,” answered the Holy Father,
“they never let me drive in the Vatican.
I was just standing here wondering
if I might be able to drive today.”
The Spanish chauffeur knew
that something like this could easily cost him his job…
…but how do you say no to the Pope?
So the Holy Father gets behind the wheel,
his driver sits in the back,
and they tear out of the airport at 105 miles an hour.
Needless to say, it’s not long before they’re hearing sirens.
Pulled over, a cop steps up to the window
but without saying a word
immediately returns to his patrol car.
“I need to talk to the chief,” he says to the dispatcher.
He tells the chief he’s stopped a limo going 105.
“So bust ’em,” says the chief. 
“Do you know who it is?”
“I don’t think we want to do that,” says the cop.
“It’s somebody really important.”
“Who is it?” asks the chief.  “Is it the mayor?”
“Bigger” answers the cop.
“A senator?”  “Bigger.”
“The Prime Minister?”  “Even bigger.”
“So who is it?” the chief pleads.
“I…I think it’s God,” the cop replies.
“God?” says the puzzled chief. 
“What in the world makes you think it’s God?”
“Well,” answers the cop, “he’s got the Pope for a chauffeur!”

Do you know who I am?
That’s the probing question Jesus asks his disciples.
He’s not all that interested in the word on the street.
Jesus is after their own understanding.
No one else can answer for them.

There’s a similar question
many have trouble answering today:
Do you know who you are?
I’m not looking for your name or address,
your parents or date of birth,
where you go to school, where you go to work,
or what you like to do on the weekends.
This isn’t about where you come from or what you do.
Who are you?

I dare say, from looking at how people act these days,
a clear majority don’t know the answer.
As human beings always have,
modern day folks are searching for love and happiness,
for truth and freedom, for meaning and fulfillment,
for a sense of purpose and of belonging.
They’re searching…but their not finding…
…because they’re looking in all the wrong places.

Notice in the gospel reading
that it’s only after Simon says, “You are the Christ,”
that Jesus says, “You are Peter—the Rock.”
You see, it’s only in revealing the face of his heavenly Father
that Jesus also uncovers the truth
about human flesh and blood—
revealing to us our truest selves.
The answers to those two questions—
Do you know who I am?  Do you know who you are?
aren’t really very far apart at all!

And that, my friends, is why it matters so much
what we think, what we say, what we believe about Jesus.
Was he just another nice guy?
another wise teacher from the past?
one religious reformer among many through the ages?
If that’s the case, it’s rather easy to take him or leave him.
But don’t we sense deep down—
more like Simon Peter than that Spanish cop—
that this is someone “even bigger?”
Don’t both heart and mind lead us to say,
“I…I think it’s God?”
And so we confess the faith
which comes down to us from the apostles:
that this preacher from Nazareth, this son of Mary,
is the promised and long-awaited Messiah,
God’s only-begotten Son,
one-in-substance with the Father,
through whom the universe was made,
who for us men and our salvation took flesh and became man.

It matters that we really believe all of this about Jesus
because it determines what we believe about ourselves.
Only if Jesus is truly the Christ, is truly the Son of the living God,
can I recognize that I, too, am a child of God;
that I am someone God has chosen—anointed—as his own;
that I have a unique role to play—a mission to fulfill—
which has not been entrusted to any other.
Oh, I can keep on searching for answers elsewhere—
in fame or fortune, in power or prestige, in sex or drugs,
in any of the other countless things
that promise to take me away
from the cares and concerns of this life.
But my true identity can only be found in one place,
and that is in God.

Through the power of the keys
(the keys to the kingdom, that is, not the papal limousine!),
Jesus opened for us the gates of heaven,
and continues to do so through his Church.
But Christ and his Church also open for us
the real secret to life here on earth.
Jesus comes revealing
not only the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God,
but the truth about ourselves—
about our human nature and its full potential.

Jesus is still asking, Do you know who I am?
And do you know who you are?
But don’t wait for the Pope or the priest,
for your family or your friends to reply.
No one else can answer these questions for you.
But they must be answered.

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