13 April 2007

Asking Jesus: "Who are you?"

Easter Octave (F): Acts 4.1-12 and John 21.1-14
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St. Albert the Great Priory and Church of the Incarnation


Because they know that he is the Lord risen from the dead, the disciples do not ask of him, “Who are you?” They’ve seen most of this before: the lesson of abundance fishing by the sea; the sharing of a meal; the cryptic instructions that seem to point to something larger but hidden; and the subtle reminder of their last meal together: the breaking of the bread and the subsequent spiraling into accusation, betrayal, violence, abandonment, self-surrender, and death. Perhaps they do not ask him “Who are you?” b/c they do not want to hear from him, “I am the one you denied in the garden. The one you fled from on the cross.” Can they ask him who he is?! There’s danger in that question.

But here they are now, fishing. The children of our Lord fishing…together fishing and without much luck. Jesus appears on the shore and tells them to throw their nets on the other side of the boat. Success! A catch too large to load into the boat. And all they needed was the Risen Lord to show them how to do.

If you see Christ later today, would you ask him: “Who are you?” I mean, you know it’s him. No doubt. But would you ask? If not, why not? Why wouldn’t you just walk up to him and say, “Excuse me, who are you?” And then what? Wait for him to say, “Here, have some bread and fish”? Or, “Here, poke around in my crucifixion wounds if you like”? Maybe there’s no direct answer to your question b/c Jesus is confident that you will recognize him in his sacramental signs, those moments of grace where he most intimately touches you body and soul and draws out of you the best of your gifts for service. OK. But still, would you ask him the question: “who are you?”

If you did, he might say, “I am the only name given under heaven and on the earth to the human race for its salvation.” He might say, “I’m the stone the builders rejected b/c I was obviously physically weak, politically unstable, too clever by half, obstinate with authority, defiant in the face of death, woefully na├»ve, hopeful, trusting, loving …” But he could easily add here, “Now, I am the cornerstone. Solid granite. Perfectly cut. Smooth and proudly set up. I mark a place and time for starting out; an ‘X’ you will all touch before you run off and flourish with my blessings. I am the Crucified Healer, the Resurrected Judge. I am the Garden beautifully flowered, the Desert savagely bare. My tomb is empty b/c I want to be here with you.”

Then he turns to look you in the eye. Holds for just a moment. Deep breath. And says, “Who are you?” Will you flutter around with a name, an occupation, a study major, a party affiliation, a philosophical allegiance? Will you be haughty, falsely modest, celebrity seeking, shy? Jesus just looked you in the eye and asked, “Who are you?” Can you say, “I am Christ”? You can. But would you? Would I?! I mean, what if Jesus asked to see my crucifixion wounds, my lash marks, my punctured side? What could I show him but my baptism and my anointing? Maybe he would frown at the lack of bread and fish and wine at my table? What could I show him instead but the meager service I’ve done in his name? What of yours would you show him? What joys would you celebrate again with him? What suffering would ask him to take from you? What anxiety exhausts you? How are you crippled? You said you wanted to follow Christ? Name your cross. But tend the wounds.

This is the third time Jesus reveals himself to the disciples after his resurrection. He is not revealing a philosophy nor a theology; a political agenda nor scientific method; a therapy nor a diet for wellness; a military plan nor insurgent training. Jesus is revealing Jesus. . .as he promised. HE is always with us. HE left the tomb empty to be with us. So, when he comes to look behind the doors of your heart and asks you, “who are you in there,” what will you show him? What will he see? Pray, brothers and sisters, that he sees his own reflection.

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