12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Who do the crowds say that I am?”  Jesus asked a simple question and the Apostles gave a few interesting, but incorrect answers: John the Baptist, Elijah, one of the Prophets.  The crowds followed Jesus, the crowds listened to His teachings, they witnessed His great miracles: they knew that He was more than an ordinary human being and they had all sorts of theories about Him that all missed the mark.

Then Jesus turned His question on the Apostles: “Who do you say that I am?”  And the Apostles got it right: You are the Christ.  In other words: you are the one that has been promised from the beginning, from right after the Fall.  Jesus is the one that all of the Old Testament anticipated and all the People of Israel awaited for centuries.  Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all that God promised to do for us through the Prophets.  God promised us a Redeemer that would conquer sin and death and Jesus fulfilled that promise by His death and Resurrection.

How is it that the Apostles were able to get it right when the crowds got it wrong?  The crowds listened to Jesus’ teaching, just like the Apostles did.  The crowds witnessed His miracles, just as the Apostles did.  What was the difference between the crowds and the Apostles?  The Apostles encountered Jesus in a personal way.  They had a personal relationship with Jesus and because of that personal encounter they had faith.

Who do you say that Jesus is?  We can all say a lot of things about Jesus.  He was born of the Virgin Mary; He grew up in Nazareth and went around teaching and healing people.  We might add that Jesus is our Savior: He suffered and died for you and for me.  We might also say that Jesus is God: He reigns in Heaven at the right hand of the Father.  All of that is true and it is important to know those things that we all learned in catechism class.  The real question, of course, is do you know Jesus?  Who is Jesus to you?  It is important to know things about Jesus, but it is essential to have a relationship with Jesus.  Do you know Him?  Can you say that Jesus is your friend?  Can you say that Jesus is the Lord of your life, can you say that is He the King of your heart; is your relationship with Jesus Christ the most important relationship in your life?

We are called to love God above all things.  Can we say that we love Him if we only think of Him once in a while, or go to Him only when we really need something that we are unable to obtain on our own?  Jesus is not a genie in a bottle, to be consulted only when we want something.  Jesus loves us.  And He wants us to love Him in return.  He wants us to come to Him and share with Him everything that is in our hearts.  He does want us to ask Him for things; but He wants us to come to Him all the time, not just when we have needs.  Jesus desires that we share everything in our lives with Him.  It is good to ask for things and to seek His forgiveness.  It is also important to thank Him for all the good things that we have, because they all ultimately come from Him.  Jesus wants us to spend time with Him, to adore Him, to praise Him, and to intercede with Him on behalf of others.

He is closer to us than anyone in the world.  He knows us better than we know ourselves.  He loves each one of us more than we love ourselves.  He wants us to love Him with our whole heart.  Give your heart to Him.  Give Him your whole self, not just part of yourself: give Him everything.  Give Him your sorrow; give Him your anxiety; give Him your stress, your frustration, you fears.  Give your heart to Jesus with all of the temptations that you struggle with, with all of your faults and failings and sins.  Give Him your suffering, give Him your hopes and your joys; give Him your desires and your thoughts and your feelings.  Ask Him to purify your mind and your heart of all that is not pleasing to Him.  Ask Him to reign in your heart.  Ask Jesus to be Lord of your life.  Turn everything over to Him.  Whenever you find yourself being tempted, renew that act of giving everything over to Him.  Ask Him to set you free.  Only by abandoning ourselves to Him can we find real freedom.

Giving yourself completely over to Jesus might sound like a loss of freedom, but quite the opposite is true.  When we abandon ourselves into the hands of Jesus, we become freer.  We were made to know and love God in freedom.  It is sin that enslaves us.  Once we have committed a sin, it becomes harder and harder to resist other sins.  Sins can easily become habits and habits are difficult to break free from.  If you think that sin is real freedom, try to stop sinning for a month.  You will soon realize that sin is really slavery because it will not easily let go of its hold on us.  Breaking free from sin is a struggle.

God wants us to be free from sin.  And He will help us, but we have to want to break free and we have to ask for His help.  Once we are free from sin, then we are free to love God and others the way that we were created to love.  We were made to love God and we will never be happy, content, or fulfilled until we love God with our whole heart.  Sin promises happiness, but always leaves us unhappy in the long run.  God gives us real freedom; God is the Source of all life and the Author of all true happiness.  God doesn’t want to restrict our freedom; He wants to give us life in abundance.  God wants to share His divine life with us.  He wants us to be happy, but in order for us to receive that divine life into our souls we have to be free from sin.

Let us renew our commitment to give Jesus our whole heart.  Let us aim at loving Him above all things as we are called to do, realizing that only by putting God first in our lives will we ever find peace and joy.  Lord Jesus Christ, we give our hearts to You today.  Take our hearts, Lord, and make them completely Yours.  Remove from our hearts everything that is not pleasing to You.  Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, on fire with love for us, ignite our hearts with the fire of Your love.  Amen.

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