16 Sep 2012
Homily for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time – September 16, 2012
September 16, 2012
By Father J. Daniel Atkins, Holy Family Catholic Church, New Albany, Indiana
The 20thcentury English-American poet WH Auden once said of Jesus, “I believe he is the Christ because He is in every respect the opposite of what He would be if I could make Him according to my image.”
Peter may have been the first disciple who tried to remake Jesus, but he was certainly not the last. The crusaders of the twelfth century tried to recast Jesus as a warrior-prince. The Ku Klux Klan tried to make Jesus into a middle class, white American. Many today are trying to make him into the poster child of conservative political policies or as the icon of liberal values. All of us have been guilty, in one way or another, of trying to make Christ in our own image. We want him to be like us.
We do not intend violence toward Jesus, any more than Peter did. Quite to the contrary, desire to remake Jesus grows out of our admiration for him. He is our ideal. His name is held in such high esteem that we want him on our side. So great is our honor for him, that we desire his sanction for our cause.
This is a compliment of sorts. But it can also be demonic. Keep in mind how Jesus reacted when Peter tried to divert him from the way of the cross. He confronted his friend with the fury of a thunderstorm, and said: “Get out of my sight, you Satan.” It is a serious business for us to make Christ in our image, instead of allowing Jesus to refashion us in his.
The crux of Peter’s confrontation with Jesus was the cross. That was what troubled Peter. And it is still what troubles us today. We want Christ. But we want him without the cross. To follow a crucified Christ is a demanding and, sometimes, dangerous way to live. For Peter and most of those first disciples, the Master’s death as a criminal was a scandal. They had to give up their plans for Jesus before they could accept his plans for them. They died for their faith. For most of us, that specific fate does not seem probable. But the cross is more than a way of dying. It is a way of living. And that does include us.
The cross means sacrificing our wants and our wishes for the sake of others. We are called to do that every day, in many unnoticed, unromantic, un-thanked ways: Daily going to visit an aging parent; putting one’s best into small details at work that no one will notice; staying on the phone with a neighbor who wants to give us too much information about her operation. Christ keeps coming to us through these backdoors, hidden and disguised; needy and in multiple interruptions. If we respond with patience and kindness then little-by-little we are transformed into something new – into his own likeness. Best of all we come to know Christ as he is and not as we think he should be. The spiritual writer C. S. Lewis puts it this way:
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
- C.S. Lewis,Mere Christianity
When we think of this way only one question remains – Will we try to make Christ in our image, or will we allow him to make us in his?