Years ago I worked more closely with seminarians as a vocation director, and later as a vice rector of a college seminary. I learned then (and recalled from my own years as a seminarian) that seminarians have a unique capacity to exaggerate the elements of their priestly formation.
For example, they used to dream up outrageous scenarios of busy priests. One of the funniest ones I remember was their imitating a priest with a cell phone: Phone rings. Priest answers: “Hello … yes, just a minute … I’m in the middle of something … “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son…” or, similarly: Phone rings. Priest answers: “Hello … yes, just a minute, I’m really busy right now … “Take this all of you and eat of it…”
Yes, outrageous! Please, God, no such thing ever happened or ever will happen!
But, the point is we are very ready to answer the phone, or regularly go on line to catch the latest news. However, we need to be equally or even more attentive to the Voice of God, the Presence of Christ, the Promptings of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Even during Mass, we come, but are often pre-occupied with our life, and may take a while to “tune in” to what is taking place in the celebration. For example, today’s first reading from the Prophet Zechariah begins:
Thus says the Lord: I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and petition;
Wow! That should have caught our attention. God, the prophet tells us, is preparing, promising, to grant us a grace! If this is from God, it must be a tremendous gift! I can’t wait to hear about this. The prophet then goes on:
and they shall look on him whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son, and they shall grieve over him as one grieves over a firstborn.
By our way of thinking, that does not sound like the gift of grace we are looking for! However, it is a prophecy of the tremendous grace and blessing God is preparing to bestow upon the world in his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Indeed, in Christ, we have become rich!
The words of the Prophet Zechariah remind us of the words of another Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, when he praised God saying:
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel … Through his holy prophets he promised of old, that he would save us from our enemies, from the hands of all who hate us.
Christ is the One who saves us from our enemies, from the hands of all who hate us. He is the only one who can do so. Thus, St. Peter in the Gospel today is able to answer Christ’s question: “Who do people say that I am?” with his own profession of faith: “You are the Christ of God.”
For us to fully appreciate this identity of Christ in our life, perhaps we need to ask a similar question of ourselves: “Who am I?” St. Paul gives the ultimate answer to this question in today’s second reading from the Letter to the Galatians: “we are children of God, through Jesus Christ.”
This is the truth of every person. As our creed states: through him [Jesus] all things were made. If we are to be attentive to the presence and action of God in our life, we need a profound and conscious understanding that we are created by God, in his image, for his purposes. Thus, we pray in the Our Father: thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.
Jesus goes on to speak about his own rejection. He tells us we will share in this if we wish to be associated with him. If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
It should not then be surprising to us that we will experience trials and sufferings. These trials not only associate us with Christ, but are God’s means of growing us in virtue. God does not allow us to be tried and tempted that we fail. No, his purpose is that we persevere in his grace, and conquer. We need not fear these trials and temptations, for God strengthens our will, and our strength is Christ, his cross, his blood.
As God told St. Paul in his temptations, so he tells us: “my grace is sufficient for you.”
Christ’s identity is found in his relationship with the Father. The Christian identity is found in our relationship with Christ.
Christ continues to call us to follow him. We must be alert. We must be attentive. Christ continues to call us to fully identify our self with him, and to find our deepest self in him. He teaches us to live simply and with self-discipline. We are called in the New Evangelization to find our life in Christ and to renew our interior life, which a life in Christ.
Christ warns not to store up treasure of this world, but rather to seek first the Kingdom, and store up treasure in heaven. Let us learn this Gospel wisdom. Let us Know Christ, and better know our self. Let us always seek Christ, serve Christ, and be Christ to those we meet.0