We often treat Christ as if he were car insurance. How?
Whenever we get into a wreck or fender-bender, we are grateful to have it in our life. Without it paying our debt, we’d be much poorer. Our life would be more difficult.
But most of the time, we really don’t think about it much.
We know we have it in our life. We acknowledge it exists. But unless something major happens, we often go about our day not thinking about it.
I myself am guilty of this at times. My faith can sometimes be more head knowledge than heart.
And Who Do You Say I Am?
I grew up believing in God. My faith in Christ very sincere. As a priest, I’m sort of a professional believer in Christ.
Now one day a friend lent me a book by Richard Rohr called From Wild Man to Wise Man: Reflections on Male Spirituality. And as I started reading, I found this nugget:
Anyone who has any authentic inner experience knows that God is only beauty, mercy, and total embrace, and nothing but beauty, mercy, and total embrace.
As I read it, I believed it. Intellectually I know it to be true. But the sentence that followed bothered me: “The only people who don’t know that are those who have never sought God’s face.”
The line bothered me because never in my life have I ever sought to see God’s face. Knowing God is present in my life was enough for me.
And yet when I took it a step further to discern how I understood God in my life at that moment, it was nothing like Rohr’s description of beauty, mercy and total embrace.
With all of the recent struggles I had been going through, my God became more like a thorn in my side, prodding me to move forward. Or a life preserver keeping me from going underwater.
What Rohr described seemed foreign to me. It shouldn’t be. But it was. Somehow my understanding of Christ went askew.
As we read our Gospel, people also did not fully understand who Jesus was.
How to See Jesus as Peter Saw Him
Jesus travelled with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked, “Who do people say that I am?” The version of this story from Matthew says, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
Some said John the Baptist; others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.
Then Jesus asked his friends what they believed to be true. And Peter enthusiastically shouts out, “You are the Messiah.”
Peter says this not because someone told him what to say. Or from something he read. He says this because he had seen Jesus in action from day one.
Peter saw Jesus doing miraculous things like the Feeding of the 5000. He’s seen him make the blind, the deaf hear and the mute speak.
If we could see the face of Jesus, we too could see that he is “nothing but beauty, mercy, and total embrace”. We, too, without a doubt, shoot our hands into the air and say, “Lord, you are the Messiah!”
By a show of hands, who here believes in God? Now raise your hands once more if you believe that your faith would grow deeper if you could look directly into Jesus’ face.
This morning let me share with you the opportunity to see Christ’s face right now.
As I sat in my chair reading Rohr, I suddenly realized that just knowing that God exists was not enough. I wanted to see Christ’s face.
And instantly I was reminded of something Jesus once shared.
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, he will bless the righteous with the inheritance that God had prepared for them since time began.
Why? Because they saw him hungry and fed him. They saw him thirst and gave him drink. They saw him as a stranger yet invited them in. They saw him needing clothes and clothed him. And when they saw him sick or in prison, they visited him.
The righteous were confused and replied, “When did we ever see you?” To which the King answered, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
And in those words from Matthew 25, I found the answer. If I wanted to not only know that Christ exists in my life, that I can actually see his face, all I had to do was to help someone in need.
And so one day I stopped by a local laundromat. In my pocket were small rolls of quarters in plastic baggies with a note on it saying “Jesus loves you and we love you too. I hope this gift may be a blessing to you.”
I wasn’t doing this with any agenda in mind. Like trying to grow the church. Or making myself feel better about myself for doing a good deed. Or doing something because it was expected of me as a priest.
I simply wanted to see Jesus’ face.
As awkward as I felt doing it, I simply approached people and said “I would like to give you some coins to help with your laundry.” I gave it to them, smiled, shut my mouth from saying more, sat back down and continued reading my book.
Some thanked me and took the coins, probably thinking “Oh, free money!” Some were already done with their laundry, thanked me but didn’t take the money, saying that someone else might need it.
But the majority who did take it were shocked. This kind of stuff normally doesn’t happen, thinking “And he’s not asking for anything in return? The majority came up to me, introduced themselves, shook my hand and thanked me for my kindness.
But what I did get in return was far greater than anything they could give me. I saw their face and I suddenly saw the face of Christ! And I remembered again why I became a priest in the first place.
If you too want to see the face of God, I invite you to join me. Come, let’s search for Jesus’ face together.