The Jesus question and the celebrations of Lent
In his book Rediscover Jesus Matthew Kelly relates the story of Paul and his buddies rushing from a successful business meeting in Brooklyn. In their haste to the airport they knock over a produce stand. While the others catch the taxi, Paul turns his attention to the woman behind the stand.
She is blind and crying softly. “It’s OK, it’s OK,” he assures her as he gets down on hands and knees and starts gathering the fruit and vegetables that weren’t ruined. When he finishes he gives her some money to cover the costs.
“Are you Jesus?” she asks. “I only ask because I prayed for Jesus to help me as I heard my fruit falling all over the sidewalk.”
When was the last time someone saw Jesus in you?
In Rediscover Jesus Kelly asks: “Who do people say that I am?” (Matthew 16:13-20). But the Jesus question we all have to face at some time in our lives is the second question Jesus poses: Who do you say that I am?
Many today are ill prepared to answer that question. “Our culture seems intent on placing Jesus in the same category as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny,” Kelly says. I suggest that Santa seems to get a bigger billing in many homes on Christmas Eve. It is a struggle to keep Christ in Christmas.
Jesus made definite claims about who He was. He calmed the storm at sea; he walked on water; he forgave sin – and if that claim was doubted he cured the sinner from physical ills. And at least 80 times Jesus said that he was the Son of God.
Jesus raised people from the dead to show that he was master over death. Imagine being at a funeral and someone calls the deceased saying, “Come out” (John 11:1-44). And the dead man rises.
If you had a privileged upbringing in the faith you can come up with excellent answers to Jesus question: Who do you say that I am? If you went to church weekly with your parents, said daily prayers, and lived in a Christian community your faith had the chance to be nurtured.
The Angelus Prayer reminds us of the incarnation and redemption story every day. Giving God thanks at every meal reminds us who Jesus is. Listening to Jesus speak with daily bible reading is essential.
The Easter preparation of Lent retells the story and relives the events of who Jesus is. The rich church liturgies of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday are precious reminders of the powerful truths that have changed the world.
Lent is a celebration of truths. Joy in our salvation cannot be overcome with sackcloth and ashes. The sting of death has been overcome. That is something to celebrate.
And who do our children and grand children say Jesus is? I went to church with my grandchildren recently. It struck me that they were surrounded by strangers. And I recalled when I was six, I would have seen my extended family in church, my cousins and friends, my neighbors and really, everyone I knew.
In the nuclear family it is a challenge to belong to a Christian community. Isolated in a city this family has to work harder to provide the faith-rich environment we took for granted as children.
And who does Jesus say you are?