Sunday, June 20, 2010

Recognizing the Christ

(12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, C)

In the gospel today we have Luke’s account of St. Peter’s great confession. When asked who he says Jesus is, he responds, “the Christ of God.” This confession is the heart of our faith. For each of us, our Christianity begins when we admit, come to believe, and are willing to say publicly that Jesus of Nazareth, a Jew of the first century, is the anointed Christ, Savior, and Messiah of God. For most of us, this confession was made on our behalf when we were baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ as infants. Those of us who were baptized as adults made our own confession of faith.

Nevertheless, however we came to be baptized, our confession of faith in Jesus as the Christ is not a ‘one time’ thing. This realization, this spiritual knowledge which is at the heart of God’s purpose as Creator, lives in us each day and should animate every thought and action of the Christian soul.

So how do we obtain, or how do we receive this knowledge that Jesus is the Christ, and with such certainty that we become willing to proclaim our faith publicly and begin to base our whole lives upon it? For this we turn to today’s first reading from the prophet Zechariah.

The prophet writes that God will pour out on his people “a spirit of grace and petition, and they will look on him whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son.” These two go together; in fact, it is through looking on him whom we have pierced—that is to say the contemplation of Christ crucified—that we come to notice, appreciate, and perceive the Spirit of God poured out upon us, his people. This is because it is precisely the Passion that accomplishes the handing over of the Holy Spirit to us, which is God’s way of making a home in our hearts and lives. Recall the moment of Jesus’ death in St. John’s Gospel: “And bowing his head, he handed over the Spirit.”

Here we have the dynamic process of faith and prayer which is the heart and the basis of Christianity. By our contemplation of Christ crucified, we become aware of the Holy Spirit we have received through the sacrifice of his Passion. In turn, the Spirit enables us to recognize Jesus as the Christ of God. As this confession of faith wells up in our hearts and minds, we are pushed further into the contemplation of Christ crucified. Prayer and faith live in a mutually growing process and the result is that we become better Christians each day.

This contemplation is what we are about here at Mass, for holy Mass is Jesus’ extension of the sacrifice of his Passion through time such that we can share and receive his broken Body into our lives. Our Holy Communion, then, is the perfect contemplation of Christ crucified because in it we receive his Body into our bodies. It is by our Communion, then, that we also receive the Spirit that recognizes Him Whom we have received.

We come here to Sunday Mass in order to become Christians, to make again the confession of faith that the Spirit prays within us. We become the Body of Christ we receive, and so inherit the saving mission of Jesus. In this we ourselves are called to be the fulfillment of the last part of Zechariah’s prophecy we hear today; to become, as Church, a “fountain to purify from sin and uncleanness.” The Church is called to be the sign for the world of God’s salvation, and the source of the baptism that can save the world from its selfishness and misery. Let us recognize Jesus as the Christ, accept the mission God wills to embed within us by Holy Communion, and become this baptism for the world.

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