Thoughts on the Gospel Reading for Today

Yesterday afternoon my family and I visited a parish community in a most unbeautiful place: the church and its elementary school sit beside an interstate highway clogged with traffic. Within the parish boundaries are a slew of strip shopping malls, trailer parks and 1960s era ranch houses and Cape Cods. When we entered the sanctuary we saw it was was no great shakes either—a converted 1950s gym with a worn rug on the floor and wooden pews that had seen better days.

The priest who celebrated the Mass began it by telling us that the Mass would be reverent but brief because  the church’s annual carnival was going on in a nearby baseball field and the carnival volunteers needed to return to their duties.The cantor proceeded to sing softly and off key. A mentally disabled man sitting near us was four or five lines behind the rest of us during all songs and responses.

Despite of, or perhaps because of, all the ordinariness of this unassuming parish, I felt the Holy Spirit making its presence known. The miracle and mystery of our Eucharistic Lord was present. And what helped me greatly was the priest’s explication of the Gospel reading for this Sunday in Ordinary Time. Jesus asks the Apostles two simple questions.

Until yesterday, I never really had contemplated what happens after Jesus multiplies the loaves and fish to feed a hungry crowd. He and his disciples head off in a boat. First they go to Dalmanutha, a village on the Sea of Galilee, where Pharisees attempt to test His divinity. They move on to Bethsaida, another fishing village, where Christ makes a blind man see. They travel further and Jesus asks his disciples “Who do the crowds say that I am?”

Then, He asks them an even tougher question: “But who do you say that I am?”

Who is Christ? The priest told us we can talk about his miraculous birth. We can talk about his torturous death and glorious resurrection. But who, exactly, is Christ? How do we go about explaining Him to others?

And then the priest told us to look at the person standing near us, someone we do not know. This is Christ. As Christians, we must learn to see the face of Christ in everyone we meet. And we must be the face of Christ to all we encounter as well. This is our task. As followers of Christ,our words, but even more powerfully, our actions must reflect Christ. When we look in a mirror, whose face shall we see?

This summer, in School of Community, we are reading some works by the leader of Community and LiberationFr. Julián Carrón. The priest’s homily called to mind an excerpt from the readings: if the fact of Christ’s victorious presence, “remains only at the level of piety or devotion, it would be as if it never happened,” Fr. Carrón writes, “as if it did not contain enough substance of reality to change life, to make a mark on life; and then we would be shaped by everything else, which overwhelms us, which confuses us, which discourages us, which keeps us from breathing, seeing, touching the novelty that the risen Christ has introduced and continues to introduce in our lives.” 

I am Catholic because God makes Himself known in every soul we encounter. And because wherever we travel for whatever reason, we can be the face of Christ to others.

  • Sarah Harkins

    Sounds very Ignatian! The Jesuits pride themselves in this practical spirituality where they find God in every day living. My husband is reading a book called the Jesuit Guide to Practically Everything. He is loving it. The practicality of finding God in everyone and everything is renewing for his soul :)

  • Mary

    It is much more than practical renewal of the soul, it is fundamental to all living beings in my opinion. God is the Creator of all things, not just a few things, EVERYTHING. Christ understood that he was part of that creation from the beginning as are we all. Time and place mean nothing to the Creator. Whether we were born yesterday, today, long ago or years from today, it will always be NOW, right this minute, for God. From the one True God comes all things, seen and unseen. This is why WE ARE ALL ONE.Christ is in me and I am in Christ. As a Catholic or believer of Christ, that means that whatever I say, whatever I do to others and myself and whatever I think, I am doing, thinking and saying to Christ. So when I yell at someone for cutting me off in traffic, yes, I just yelled at Christ. If I had unkind or impure thoughts about someone, yes, I just had unkind and impure thoughts about Christ and if I abused or hurt someone physically, well, you get the picture.The image of God, who is Christ, and His Holy Spirit, is in each of us as well. That is who we really are. We are here to realize this and to serve not ourselves in the temporary body, but to serve God. Once we realize this, we will ask Our Lord to 'give us this day our daily bread' -the tools of the Holy Spirit, to become aware of and to serve His will, so that we may produce the fruit that honors His will and not our own. To produce fruit that will feed God and our spiritual selves for an eternity.

  • Allison

    @Sarah: The book sounds great.@Mary: Thanks for your thoughts. So true.

  • Anonymous

    Hey… that book is written by Fr James Martin SJ – in a way the person who initially inspired this site. He wrote the book 'My Life with the Saints' which (if I'm not wrong) Webster picked up and which helped him alot. I love Fr Jim's books – I'm sure this one is a great one too! Rose

  • Allison

    @Rose: Interesting. Yes, Webster's conversion was due in part to that book. read it as well and it helped me to understand the saints as living breathing people who now can be our companions in heaven.Blessings,Allison