Are you usually able to see “the whole picture” of a situation?

In a conversation out in the hallway before a philosophy class, one of my professors gave me this bit of info. He said simply: “Kempf, you know well the things you know.” It was a perceptive statement about what and how I see the world. What he was telling me was that I, like many people, am very good at seeing and observing the things right in front of me. I ‘get’ those things. (The Native Americans would call that a ‘mouse’ personality which is the opposite of the eagle, soaring high, aloof, but seeing EVERYTHING spread out below it. The mouse personality is warm, excitable, caring, but focused on only what you can see right in front of you.) I am good at what is right in front of me.

But I am in awe of the people who can see the same things right in front of them and who somehow are instantly able to put it into a broader perspective. They are able to see “the whole picture”

Sometimes we don’t see the whole picture. Sometimes we only see what is right in front of us, or only get things half right. That certainly is the case in this Sunday’s Gospel. There the disciples tell Jesus the ‘right in front of them’ answers to his question. Elijah, John the Baptist, one of the prophets – all of them great figures in Israel’s history. Peter’s reply is even more hopeful and more ‘present to what is right there”: You are the CHRISTOS – the anointed one, the one who would restore the political fortunes of Israel.

Yet rather than commending Peter’s answer – Jesus tells the disciples to keep the answer to themselves. Don’t say anything until you are sure you see the WHOLE PICTURE. I am the anointed, but I “must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” And you who would respond to my question about who I am –must be prepared to take up your cross and follow me. To see ALL that is to see the WHOLE PICTURE.

When it comes to understanding Jesus as “the Christ of God” the tendency is to only see part of the picture. We readily accept Christ’s message about forgiveness, love, compassion, mercy, and eternal life, but we miss his message about denying ourselves, taking up our cross each day, and losing our lives in service to our neighbor and in faithful obedience to God. It is easy not to ‘see’ the whole picture because it involves suffering and sacrifice.

Perhaps an interesting way to pray for the grace to see the whole picture is to do a little behavioral examination of conscience using that question of Jesus: “Who do you say I am?”

What does my attendance at Sunday mass say about who Jesus is? (There is a great article by Archbishop Carlson on the third commandment in this week’s review – I recommend reading it in this regard.) Does it reflect my love for him, my devotion and commitment?

Who do I say Jesus is in the humor that I choose to pass on, the movies I choose to let my eyes see, the ‘tabloid stuff’ that I read?

Who do I say Jesus is in the prejudices I still nurture, the judgments I utter, and the gossip I pass on in the office or at the pool?

Who do I say Jesus is – in the prayers that I say and the time I set aside to spend with the Lord? Do my behaviors there say to Jesus that he is my Lord and Savior, my brother and my friend?

Finally, Who do I say Jesus is in the forgiveness I offer my fellow human beings; the charity I extend to those in need, and the compassionate concern I show to those whose life has taken an unexpected turn for the worse?

My hope is when you look at those things – you’ll have the grace of seeing the whole picture, of your life in Christ, how that effects your life here on earth, and how his love for you calls you to life here at this Eucharistic table…

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Easter wisdom…

Published on 11. Apr, 2010 by in Sunday Homilies


A few years ago, when our 8th grade presented the ‘living’ stations of the cross before our students and faculty, one of our faculty members was visibly moved by the spectacle of ‘Mary’ holding the dead body of her son ‘Jesus’. As she wiped a tear or two from her eye, one of her students, a first grader, looked up, saw the tears, and gently rested her head on the teacher’s arm. Then after a moment, she looked up and quietly asked: “Can I say something that is helpful?” (a code phrase in the classroom) “Sure,” she said. “He didn’t stay dead.”

Out of the mouths of babes, comes the deepest truth about our Lord and savior. “He didn’t stay dead.” And that, to quote the car commercial, changes everything. You see, if Jesus did not remain in the grips of death, if the tomb could not and would not hold the risen one, then it will not hold us either. And though we tend to think of that, usually in an ‘end of my life/days’ type of scenario –‘not staying dead’ is so much more immediate!

You see, ‘not staying dead’ means that there is a power within us that we can draw upon in any situation. And that power is full of LIFE, full of growth, full of change. We’re not stuck in our past mistakes or failures. And, we have an ability to walk into the places of death and bring life, bring change, bring growth. That power calls us to make a difference each day.

‘Not staying dead’ means that there is an URGENCY to our life – a preciousness to each moment, each opportunity to proclaim good news. That is what we hear in the gospel accounts of the resurrection – a kind of breathless excitement. “Go quickly and tell the disciples”, the angel says. The women “went away quickly from the tomb, fearful, yet overjoyed, and ran to tell the apostles”. It records the disciples running to the tomb. Not staying dead means that we run to all the places of the world that need good news spread to them.

As we take these next 50 days of the Easter season to unpack the wonder and mystery of the resurrection, we are meant to do that, not only in our Liturgical celebrations, but by our concrete acts of witness. We are to live and act in a way that cannot be explained except by the presence of the risen Jesus in us. He didn’t stay dead. Neither should we. Neither should we…

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