Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Times

June 19, 2016

Father Stéphane Pouliot

Who is Jesus?

Who is he really?  Whenever I visit a Catholic classroom, I often will verify the understanding of the children of any grade.  In my experience, kids learn from an early age the expression God and Jesus.  They talk about speaking to God and they talk about speaking to Jesus.  I have listened to adults refer to God and Jesus in the same sentence, confusion permeating our religious language.  It is as if we do not know how to speak about Jesus, because He is too mysteriously complicated to be defined easily.

 

Who is Jesus?  Some will say that he is a man.  Some will say he is God.  Some will say he is God’s Son.  Some will say he is a prophet.  Some will say he was a great religious teacher.  Some will say he is a revolutionary.  Some will say he is an anarchist.  Some will say he was a hippie before there was such a thing.  Some will say he is a historical figure.  Some will say he is a myth.

Everybody has an opinion about Jesus it seems.  Who’s right?  Who is Jesus?  Jesus never intended for his identity to be a ping pong game, or an unsolved maze.  That is why he went out of his way in surveying his disciples one day away from the crowds.  This was a big question.  He wanted an answer from those who were walking with him day in and day out, those who had been witnesses of his many miracles, those who were hanging to his every word.  He wanted those who followed him, who learned from him, to tell him what the crowds said about who he was.

And it was wild: Jesus is John the Baptist risen from the dead; Jesus is Elijah back centuries later; Jesus is one of the ancient prophets.

Jesus as John the Baptist: well, isn’t that something?  That would imply that after John the Baptist had been beheaded, he would have been temporarily hosted into Jesus’ body who just so happened to have lived already for 30 years by then, by taking over Jesus’ soul a bit like an alien invasion.

Jesus as Elijah: this time, Elijah who had been taken into heaven centuries before would now have reincarnated into Mary’s womb and come up looking quite different than the original, thank you very much.

Jesus as one of the ancient Prophets: same process as Elijah, and coated into a New Age mystery beyond human understanding.

Jesus, by then had heard enough.  I can almost imagine him rolling his eyes.  “But who do you say that I am?” he asked his disciples.  I can see them right now looking at each other, unsure, puzzled, not wanting to be wrong, trying to tell whoever stands next to them: “You go first”.  “No, you go first”.  “I don’t know.  Don’t you know?”

“Peter answered, saint Luke reports, ‘The Christ of God’ (Luke 9:20)”.  As soon as he uttered those words, the rest of the disciples seem to have let out a “Phew…”, “Dodged that one”, “Good for you Peter”, “If you are wrong, at least it is not me”.

Jesus interestingly enough does not deny that, as saint Luke reports it, Peter hit the nail on the head, but instead of launching into “Now, let me give you the answer”, he “sternly ordered and commanded the disciples not to tell anyone” (Luke 9:21).

Well, Jesus, you want us to know what we think about you, but you do not want anyone to know it.  I don’t get it.

 

But Jesus was not done with the interview.  He continues: “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. (Luke 9:22)”

You want to know who I am, Jesus seems to hint, then watch my next actions.  They will speak louder than words.  I want you to pay attention my disciples, he seems to tell them, because you should ask yourself the identity of the man who must, according to the old prophecies proclaimed in the synagogue every week, undergo great suffering, be rejected, be killed and be raised.

Who is that?  Maybe not every disciple had memorized all the prophecies, but surely one of them remembered the old prophecy of Zechariah, which we heard in the first reading: “… when they look on the one whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only-begotten son, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn” (Zechariah 12:10).

Many other prophecies would have come to the minds of one or the other of the disciples gathered that day privately with Jesus.  They would have mulled it over and wondered: “Why does Jesus refer to himself in the third person, claiming the identity of the Son of Man”?  They would have pondered Peter’s confession: “You are the Christ of God” (cf. Luke 9:20), which would mean in the original Hebrew:

“You are the Messiah sent by God to save us”.  They would go back to the prophecy of Daniel probably memorized by many Jews of that time:

“And to ‘one like a son of man’ was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed (cf. Daniel 7:13-14) [1]”.  Who does that sound like?  Who could possibly be the man who would receive an everlasting dominion and a kingdom that shall not be destroyed, other than God?

Who is Jesus?  Is he a man? Yes.  Is he God?  Yes.  Is he the Son of God? Yes.  Is Jesus a prophet?  He is a prophet insofar as he is the voice of the Father in Heaven, and inspired by the Holy Spirit.  Is he a great religious teacher?  Jesus is not a great religious teacher, but THE definitive Teacher of what matters is this life and in the next.

Is he a revolutionary?  Yes, insofar, as His coming among us overthrows the devil’s usurped kingship over the world, Jesus is launching a revolution of truth, love, peace and reconciliation whereby the hellish values are thrown out and the heavenly values are in.

Is Jesus an anarchist?  That he definitely is not, since by definition an anarchist rejects any structure and authority, and Jesus sets up a mysterious structure in his twelve apostles, appoints Peter to be their leader, gives Peter and the other eleven apostles authority to bind and to loose sins, as well as gives Peter authority to be a rock for the other disciple makers.    Those decisions are not the work of an anarchist, then and now.

Is Jesus a hippie?  Definitely not in the 1960’s sense of the word, for His peace is not temporary, clouded in smoke and His love is not sexual, but sacrificial.

Is Jesus a historical figure?  100% historical, attested by his enemies and friends alike.  The more we seek to deny his existence, the more we affirm it.

Is Jesus a myth?  If we understand a myth to be a fairy tale, definitely not.  If we believe that Jesus’ story is hidden in everyone of our great stories, then yes.

But after all of this, we must still answer Jesus’ question: “But who do you say that I am?”  Your answer matters a great deal, because your answer will drive what you do next, once you have taken stock of the consequences of your answer.

Imagine Jesus in front of you right now, because He is here, at this very moment, asking you the most important question:

“But who do you say that I am?”

 

[1]13 I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.14 And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain). (1994). The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic edition (Da 7:13–14). New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.



The Chief medical Health Officer of Kingston has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Please read and observe the six key principles outlined below.

1) The key principle is that we come to Mass to worship God. Out of justice and exercising the virtue of religion we must give God what is God’s due. That quite simply is worship, adoration and praise. Thus, the absolute essentials of Mass will be included so that the Sacramental praise of God will take place and we will be exposed to one another for as brief a time as possible.

2) The second key principle is that the health and safety of parishioners, staff and clergy here at St. Mary’s are essential and require our utmost concern and attention. Therefore, the dispensation from the obligation to come to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Mulhall continues to be in effect. Those who are sick, elderly or have other critical health concerns should not come at this time. However, that is left to your discretion. Should you make the choice to come, knowing the risks, you are most welcome.

3) The underlying principle of all of our restrictions in isolating, physically distancing, wearing masks etc. is the common good as we live out the Lord’s commission to “love one another.” We are to care for each other and at this time we are called to be as prudent and careful as we can to protect the health of everyone else and ourselves.
4) The principle for the next few weeks will be brevity. The received scientific wisdom is that the virus spreads within groups who spend a prolonged period of time together. Therefore, we will be reducing the Mass to the bare essentials.
5) Singing is considered more dangerous than speaking so you are asked to please not sing at all throughout the Mass. I will not be singing either.
6) If you have any sickness, are elderly or have a critical illness you should remain at home. The dispensation from the obligation to come to Mass continues through this time of 30% capacity. Of course, if you choose to come you will not be turned away. We will continue to live- stream the Masses until we are back to a more normal arrangement.
PROCEDURAL NORMS FOR
THE NEXT FEW WEEKS

The Chief medical Health Officer has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Brevity
We will pray a shorter Penitential Rite.
The Gloria will be said not sung. There is to be no singing by the congregation during the Mass. Only by a cantor or as we have today a physically distanced choir in the choir loft…3 metres apart.
We will only have one reading followed by the Psalm
The second reading will be omitted.
The choir will sing the Alleluia on Sundays. During the week it will be omitted. Please do not join in.
The Gospel.
A very brief (3-4 minute) homily will follow.
The Creed will not be prayed.
There will be no petitions. Please prepare your own petitions and offer them in your heart during the Mass.
There will be no procession of the gifts.
There will be no regular collections at this time in the Masses. It will happen later. Ushers will be at the doors to receive your offering as you leave.
The Eucharistic Prayer will be prayed. This is the Most Important Part of the Mass.
The Our Father
Sign of Peace. This is a time when we won’t shake hands. Please do not wave to each other or give the two finger sign of peace. Neither of these reflect what is the intention here…You are recognizing the presence of God in the other person and praying they know God’s peace. The most appropriate gesture is a slight bow or nod of the head to the other person. You have seen me do this at the sign of peace to all of you at every Sunday Liturgy.
Please be seated.
Then the ushers will direct you to the place where you will receive Holy Communion. Please do not leave your pew until an usher has indicated you should do so.
Another usher will be close to the Communion Station to receive your Sunday Offering.
When it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. You will stand 6 feet away on the red line. The person distributing Holy Communion will say “The Body of Christ”. You will say “Amen”. Then move forward within arms length and receive the Host. Once you have received go straight out the nearest exit and make your Thanksgiving on your way home.
Aisles 1 & 5 will come forward to receive Holy Communion and leave by the side doors.
Aisles 2, 3 & 4 will go to the back to receive Holy Communion.
Aisle 2 will exit by the exit closest to the rectory.
Aisle 3 will exit out the centre door which you came in
Aisle 4 will exit out the door by the washrooms.
You are strongly encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue endangers the person giving Holy Communion and yourself, the person receiving Holy Communion. If you wish to insist on receiving on the tongue please wait until the very end as the person giving Holy Communion should sanitize their hands after each communicant. The usher will pass you by and will come back to you after everyone else has received. Please don’t leave your pew until that has taken place.