Watching the end of the national news the other day, I was informed that “more Americans get their news from ABC News than from any other news source.” It prompted me to ask why I was watching this particular news and not some other. There are many “news sources” we can choose, and this is not a tirade against FOX, CNN, MSNBC, CBS, or any other network. It is, however, a good thing to think about from time to time.
We all have opinions – mindsets, perspectives, and slants – and these opinions, whether we admit it or not, drive which outlets we turn to in order to further inform those opinions. The result is usually that we become even more ingrained in our particular point of view. It’s kind of a vicious circle, isn’t it? How often have people claimed to have or know "the truth" because they watched a video on YouTube? There are "facts" to fit every opinion.
The truth is that liberals can be just as stubborn as conservatives, and a failure to listen to truth – and to one another – only underscores the divide between them. Now more than ever we experience this divide, and it gets worse every day. The fact is, in order to arrive at truth, we must check our opinions. But this is not a political talk; we are here to hear about Jesus.
So, along those same lines let me ask: Where do you get your information about Jesus? What attitudes of ours inform where and to whom we listen about the Lord? Our parents? Our friends? Our priests? Our media caricatures? The Gospel? Certainly, these all provide some information about who Jesus is. But I want to suggest that these are not enough.
What drives us to learn about Christ? Our ignorance? Our curiosity? Our wish for something safe and strong? Again, these are good motives, but they are incomplete. Our gospel today can help us to reconcile it all, though.
We come to a pivotal moment in Jesus’ ministry. He is now preparing to make His way toward Jerusalem – toward His Passion. Before He does, though, he checks in with his closest followers, and He asks, “Who do people say that I am?” Here, Jesus is not having an identity crisis or showing insecurity. Rather, he is questioning the “sources” of opinions about Him. The disciples give various opinions – each of which is informed by the people’s own desires, opinions, and mindsets.
Next, He asks them directly, “Who do you say that I am?” This question is different. It is personal. There’s no hiding behind the source; there’s no copping out; there’s no passing the buck. He wants an answer, and He wants it clearly.
When Peter responds that He is the Christ, Jesus seems to be satisfied; but when Peter rebukes Jesus for speaking of suffering, rejection and death, the Lord recognizes his mistake. Peter is still speaking out of his own opinion – his own hopes and desires for Jesus and himself. In other words, he will not let Jesus be that Christ he just professed.
In correcting this error, Jesus speaks plainly that whoever would want to truly be a disciple of the Lord “must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” This denying of ourselves is at the heart of our discipleship – at the heart of knowing about Jesus and ultimately ourselves. Denying oneself means letting go – of our opinions, of our attitudes, of our personal preferences and need to be right – and allowing God to amaze us with His plan. Because if we remain rooted in ourselves, we will miss that plan.
During this year, we will have many opportunities to learn about Jesus, and I invite and encourage all our parishioners to take advantage of them. Our knowledge about the Lord must drive us to know more and more. However, that cannot be the end. Knowledge about Jesus is not the same thing as knowing Jesus.
Knowing Jesus cannot come from any “news source.” Sure, it is informed by the Word of God and nourished here at our Eucharistic table. Here, we get to celebrate the real relationship that is the goal of our Christian life. However, we must spend real time with Jesus – in the Blessed Sacrament, in reflection, and personal prayer – in order to truly call Him our friend.
If we can let go of those preconceived notions about Christ and allow Him to teach us, we will certainly enter that relationship where, by losing our life for Him, we gain eternal life with Him.