Sunday, August 21, 2011

Becoming a better you …

Some members of my congregation, by virtue of the ministry or volunteer work they’re involved in, have become relatively “closer” to me than the rest of my parishioners. This does not mean that I engage in petty favoritism. As their Rector and Pastor, I hold them all equally dear to me. The only advantage those “closer” to me have over the rest is that, every so often, they see the “other side” of me.

And that could mean a lot of things.  For example, they know that I could get picky about typographical errors and my Secretary dreads it when I give her the ‘smile’ while holding on to the Sunday bulletin; she knew I spotted one again. Others know by now that I easily forget about appointments I myself have scheduled and it’s their turn to give the ‘smile’ I often pretend not seeing. One of them, my Senior Warden, knows that my mood changes to something beyond description when I get hungry; a side effect of my diabetes, actually. Quite a few also know that there are times when I get so tempted to give in to some childish antiques, if only to get what I want, for the benefit of our parish, that is.

So, if you want to ask around who I am, you could get quite a handful of answers.  From some, they’ll probably tell you mere opinions; others, including those “closer” to me, might be able to give you correct descriptions but it will definitely take more than their “closeness”, for them to know who I really am. The bottom line is that it is often difficult to “paint” someone’s exact personality and character with just one, all encompassing brush stroke. A fair answer to who that someone is should include all the parts of a person’s unique process of becoming what he is meant to be.

And that for me appears to be the common thread weaving through the readings for this 10th Sunday after Pentecost. They appear to be alluding to the theme of “becoming”, not only in becoming the better us but also how God enables us in “becoming” who we are meant to be.

If we take a closer look at the story of Baby Moses as told in our First Reading, (Exodus 1:8-2:10), we would notice that this age old story is a good example of the theme of “becoming”.

This story traces the early beginnings of Moses who would then later on “become” the Great Law-Giver Moses. It tells the story of how the baby was spared from death through the ingenious suggestion that he be placed in a papyrus basket and put amongst the reeds by the bank of the river Nile

It took place at a time of unrest in the history of the Hebrew people as they faced changes in the political and governmental institution in Egypt. The Hebrew people who took refuge there during a time of famine suddenly found themselves facing slavery, even genocide as Pharaoh issued orders that young boys be killed. It was the Hebrew women who took charge of the almost tragic situation. The midwives refused to comply with the order to kill the children and through some ingenuity saved the lives of countless babies, including Moses, who will eventually “become” instrumental in saving the Hebrew people. 

This noble story of “becoming” has God in its midst, who willed it to happen. The women were instrumental in this process of becoming with their willingness to take risk without fearing the consequences.

Then there is the account of Paul in his Letter to the Church in Rome, (Romans 12:1-8) which is our Epistle for today. Again, if we take a closer look at it, we would learn how Paul reminded his readers that everyone is different. 

Here we learn that it is, after all, beneficial that everyone is different, that we all have different gifts and talents. Paul wanted them to acknowledge the particular role for which they are best suited. He asked them to realize that they are called to give themselves into a living body with other committed Christians. They are to “become”, in the discharge of their different gifts and talents, everything that God wants them to be.  It’s an excellent passage pointing to the theme of “becoming”.

And in our gospel lesson from Matthew (Matthew 16:13-20), we have the story of Peter’s “becoming” the prime co-worker of Christ Jesus who promised to build His church. In recognizing who Jesus is, Simon who will be known as Peter, “becomes” everything that God intends him to be. 

This drama of “becoming” opens up when Jesus was at the crossroad of his ministry. We learn from Matthew that Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the district around Caesarea Philippi. It was in this busy pseudo-cosmopolitan city where Jesus asked the disciples a key question about their faith. “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And the disciples offered some of the more popular “opinions” floating around; that Jesus, the Son of Man, could be Elijah or John the Baptist or Jeremiah, who came back to life, or he could be one of the prophets. Jesus then asked them: “Who do you say that I am?”  It was not meant to be an abstract question nor was it meant to solicit information about what he has achieved. On the contrary, it was a real question that demanded a real answer, one coming from the heart. 

The disciples probably ignored the question until Simon said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” It was a response that came, not from some great theological background. Peter had none; all Peter had learned were mostly along the line of the art of fishing. On the contrary, it came with all conviction, stemming from the deep recesses of his heart. Peter knew who Jesus was. He was among those who claimed some “closeness” to Jesus; closer than the rest of the disciples. He has seen him get upset, tired and frustrated. But he has also seen him work great miracles. He has seen him cure lepers; restored health from serious ailments. He has seen him feed thousands of hungry people with so insignificant amount, five loaves and two fishes. He has also seen him still tempestuous water. 

He knew that Jesus was different. He knew Jesus was the Christ. When Peter called Jesus the Messiah, he was recognizing all of that. He was making him the master of his life. Whereupon Jesus told him, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.” Peter knew not only the real identity of Jesus but also his very own as well. Simon “became” Peter, whose conviction about Jesus “became” the foundation on which the Christian Church is built. Indeed, it is another great biblical account that points to our theme of “becoming”!

Having said that, the question I like to ask is: “Where do we see ourselves in this journey of ‘becoming’?” Well, I think both our individual and corporate faith stories are about ‘becoming’. Jesus says to each of us, “Who do you say that I am?” It is a very contemporary question, one that we need to ask ourselves in the context of our own lives. 

Recall my introductory statement when I said that “it is often difficult to ‘paint’ someone’s exact personality and character with just one, all encompassing brush stroke.”

 Consequently, we have so many views of Jesus. “Who do you say Jesus is?”  If I ask you to name some, you will give me all sorts of answers. And the truth is that there is no one, single answer. Some of your answers reflect human history and human experience. There is some truth to each one. But we also claim him to be “The Son of God”; the “Savior/Messiah” who came for us and died for our salvation.

And the amazing thing is that knowing Jesus helps us to understand more fully who we are. Our faith helps us to be more fully who we are meant to be. If I were to use my own faith story as an example, I can only say that it was indeed a journey of “becoming”.

As I progress in my own chosen station in life, I am continually confronted by the realization that God is calling me to be more authentically myself. God has called me to be the best that I can be. Similarly, God has called you to be the best that you can be. My prayer then is for you to begin becoming the better you.

No comments:

Post a Comment