A friend of mine was sitting in his back garden reading a newspaper when two gentlemen came in through the gate, they came up to him and asked ‘Have you found Jesus?’ to which he replied, having put down the paper, ‘Please don’t tell me he’s lost again.’
“Who do you say I am?” is a truly demanding question. It invites each one of us to look deep into our hearts and souls to find the answer. For many ‘enquirers’ the answer is often expressed in moments of revelation or in moments of conversion. Some times the experience is dramatic – sometimes it comes in the bits and pieces of every day.
For some of us there isn’t a moment in our lives when we weren’t conscious of Jesus in our lives. We simply imbibed him with our mother’s milk and have continued to grow in our awareness of who he is both for ourselves and the community of the Church. We have had to let go of childish and infantile ideas of Jesus as a sweet and cuddly toy, for instance.– letting of these false images may have been difficult and even caused pain. For me, at this moment, Jesus is the one who challenges the status quo and invites his followers to have the courage to grow in freedom – freedom to commit oneself to working for the good of others, working for Justice and peace and reconciliation.
Last Friday the final report on the terrible happenings which took place in Derry over 30 years ago, known as Bloody Sunday became public. It was a frightening indictment of the then ‘powers that be’ defending the status quo and falsifying evidence, casting the victims of official violence as perpetrators of violence rather than as the recipients of violence. I was deeply impressed by the Prime Minister’s whole hearted and unconditional acceptance of the report and expression of sorry for what happened in ‘our name’. I was even more impressed by a relative of one of the victims who said ‘We don’t want vengeance or anything like that – all we wanted was the clearing of the victim’s names and now we seek for reconciliation.’
There is someone who like Jesus in yesterdays Gospel learned to ‘pray alone in the midst of his disciples’ – who has learned to take up ‘his cross and follow Jesus’ – To follow Jesus not just to the place of the scull but to follow him through the cross echoing those incredible words of Jesus “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”.
The richness and compassion of his response disturb me deeply. Despite my deep conviction of the significance of Jesus in my life – would I be capable of such a truly liberating act, if one of my family had been so unjustly treated for so long? I’d love to think that my answer would be ‘Yes’ but I can honestly say that I don’t know and can only hope that my ‘Yes’ would be unconditional.
As I write this I am reminded of another friend of mine Johnny Leary, who sadly died of cancer. Johnny, whose eyes continued to sparkle through out a long term of illness, once again challenged me to the very core when we were having a conversation about the inevitability of what was going to happen. This is what he said, “It’s a real hard thing to begin to see your own body as your enemy. And you know that eventually you come to realize that you have to enter into relationship with the illness and the cancer inside you and in some way allow it to become your friend.” I stand in awe of such people for whom the ability to ‘take up the cross and follow me’ are times of liberation and true freedom.
A question for all who journey within the RCIA, in whatever role, is to try to share as honestly as we can our experience of answering the question; ‘Who do you say I am?’ and sharing how ‘taking up the cross’ has liberated each one of us. As the saying goes ‘Be not afraid.’