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.
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…