WHO DO YOU SAY THAT ‘I AM?’
Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
My dear encountered couples:
If I were asked what I considered to be the most important accomplishment of life, my answer would sound so simple to many that it probably would not be considered very wise. In fact, you might say it is much too simple and commonplace. For people are usually looking for something that would catch everyone's attention and admiration. Maybe that is why we miss seeing God so often. He comes to us in such simplicity and in such ordinary circumstances that in our efforts to witness the miraculous, we overlook God who is with us all the time.
There are actually two accomplishments in life that I consider not only important but essential. The first is - that we really learn how to love - to love God, our neighbors, and ourselves, properly. Anyone who has sincerely tried to do that knows how difficult it is. It takes a lifelong effort of progress and mistakes. To overcome selfishness requires constant weeding of our desires which reach out without consideration of anyone's benefit, not even our own.
The second accomplishment is one that is never completed in this life and probably continues on throughout eternity. It is to pursue each and every day growth in knowledge of the truth. Learn as much as we can about everything.
And so, my answer to the question what I consider to be the most important accomplishment in life is twofold: learning how to love, and growing in knowledge of the truth. Since Jesus today asks his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
I would like to focus in on the second of these - growing in knowledge of the truth. People are created with a desire to know. From early infancy the world is a spacious room of discovery for the child. Crawling around and touching things, putting them into his mouth, the baby examines every still and moving thing that comes within his range of vision and reach. Parents are the first helpers in this school of learning. Soon it is pre-school, kindergarten, and then the many years of very serious formal teaching leading to the cherished graduation day.
But there is much that we learn out of the classroom and after we receive our diplomas. At least we should. Unfortunately, many people do not seem interested to learn anything either in school or out. Some of the graduation diplomas end up being mere legal documents which say we know something when we don't - as someone once put it - legitimizations of our ignorance.
Jesus told us, “The truth will make you free.” He knew that for those who live believing false things their lives would be kept confined by these falsehoods. For instance: when you hear something go bump in the night you are better off knowing it is only a shutter blowing against the side of your house than shaking with fear under your covers imagining it is the Evil Dead 1 or 2 trying to get in your window.
You are better off knowing that the pizza you're eating has gone bad than to go ahead in your ignorance and get poisoned. To know the truth is to be able to make better choices in life. It gives us a freedom that is based upon reality and not fantasy.
We all have heard said that “a little knowledge is dangerous.” And that is often so true. To only know a little part of something while thinking we know it all is to risk doing something really stupid.
A blind man touching a snake hanging from a tree might judge it to be a cold, silky rope. A child playing with his father's pistol might think it is a toy. Someone who has read a part of the Bible for the first time might think he knows all about God and become a religious fanatic spreading falsehood wherever he goes. Or someone who has taken a two-week tour of ten countries in Europe comes home and gives seminars on the customs and beliefs of the Portuguese and the Polish. A little knowledge can be dangerous. We should try to learn a lot about something for our own good, and certainly before considering ourselves teachers of others.
To seek as much knowledge of the truth about anything is to learn more about God. Everything true and good has been created by God. It has all been modeled on some likeness to God and comes forth from God. When you learn about flowers and trees, you learn about God. When you study history, geography, electronics, you learn more about God. As you get to know yourself and others, you will know and understand God better. When you read the Bible, when you study the life and words of Jesus, you certainly can learn a lot about God. You will grow to understand much better this world we live in.
Every bit of true knowledge that you take in teaches you something about God. You are to grow in as much knowledge of the truth during this lifetime as you possibly can. That growth will continue throughout eternity. Your discoveries and education of all the wonders of God will never end.
Knowledge of the truth leads you to knowledge of God. Learning to love will make you more like Him. These are what I consider the most important things for us to accomplish in life. For if we progress far in loving and learning, we will be ready when our time comes to leave this earth for heaven, where we will enjoy the greatest of freedom that awaits those who choose to live the life of Truth.
Jesus will ask you, “Who do you say that I am?” I pray that you will love him and come to know the answer to that question.