Life is interesting in 2023, isn’t it? Everything we could ever need is at our fingertips and the world has created a category of lifestyle for every person to find “happiness” in true self. Yet, the mental health crisis has hit an all-time high and less people are attending church than any time in recent history.
Why do I bring up the state of the world? While reading Mark’s Gospel this week on Thursday, Jesus asked the question of the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (MK 8:29) I have reflected on this many times and devoted a whole chapter in my last book on this, yet this time when I heard it, I focused on Peter’s response to Jesus. First, Peter replies that Jesus is the Christ. Then Jesus goes on to explain how He must give Himself up and die to fulfill the prophecy – Peter cannot handle this truth. Immediately, Peter wants to tell Jesus it cannot, and will not, happen go down that way. It was in reading that part of the encounter my heart gained a greater understanding of this passage.
My friends, following Christ is not about vanity or a clear cut message of prosperity. Sometimes the sacrifice hurts. There are times the pain of our own cross makes us wonder why God would allow this to happen… but this is exactly what Jesus was explaining to the disciples and it’s the same message He continues to share with us. In all moments of our life, we must work to accept life as it is and trust that Jesus is part of it all. If we never have times where we are purified, we become lost like Peter and begin to write our own story of who we “think” Jesus is, rather than accepting Christ as our ultimate savior.
As we enter Lent, there are a hundred programs, and books, and services, and everything imaginable to help us enter into a time of purgation (getting rid of all the bad stuff). Yes, they are helpful, and I have even written or recorded some of them. However, they are not God, and not every one was written for where you are in your relationship with Christ. They are there to assist us, but we are supposed to push ourselves into a place where we might become uncomfortable. Lent is not supposed to be easy. This is where true conversion happens… we no longer live for what we want, instead we find an even greater fulfillment in allowing Christ to live through us. If this isn’t our goal for Lent, then it’s just like the next lines in Mark’s Gospel when Jesus tells Peter, “Get behind me Satan!” (MK 8:33) Our Lord wants us to accept the plan His Father has laid forth for us to have the most beautiful life on earth, by being who He created us to be.
In the end, if we allow ourselves to accept a full, transformative, relationship with Jesus, we can better understand one answer to question, when He asks us, “Who do you say that I am?” – one we might have never expected. “You are me, Lord.” How can we say this? Because as a “believer,” the world sees Christ in you and that is how they judge what Christianity is about and possibly whether they want to be part of a church community. It is why we use this time to allow Him to give Him all the parts of our self we might have held back in the past. This is our dying to self and allowing the Lord of Lords to become one with us. This all means, that if Jesus offers the follow up question, “Well, who are you?” Our whole-hearted response can be, “I am Christ.” After all, we are His body.