Many years ago I had a very touchy development here in the parish. There was a woman in the parish who would drop into the office now and then for a advice or a chat and always brought me a gift. Sometimes these gifts were a bit over the top, too expensive. I was not at all at ease with all this. On one visit she asked me this question – who am I to you? I knew I had to bite the bullet, clear the air and let the truth be known. So I told her, ‘you are a parishioner.’ Is that all she asked? That’s all I answered. But I thought I was your friend she said. I told her I have some friends in the parish yes but I don’t consider you one of them. You are a faithful parishioner. I knew this upset her but I didn’t want her to get the idea that she meant more to me or I meant more to her than the relationship of pastor and parishioner. That was her last visit.
In today’s gospel we hear again, this time from the gospel of Mark, the famous story that took place at Caesarea Philippi and Jesus’s question ‘who do people I am’? What are they saying about me? They give their different answers but then Jesus gets to the heart of the matter when he asks, ‘but who am I to you?’ What is our relationship?
Are you an admirer, a curious follower or a committed disciple? Are you a person who will stand by me no matter what? I want you to know that sticking with me will be costly. If you stay with me you have deny yourself, you can no longer see yourself as number one but you are to be there for those who need you. You are to take us your cross in whatever form it comes to you and you will gain your life by losing it in the service of others.
Jesus asks us every day, ’who am I to you?’ He says,’ I know who you are to me, you are dearer to me than life itself. In fact I gave me life for you when I died on the cross. All I ask of you is that you love others, even those who do not love you. I challenge you to love those who hurt you, ignore you, put you down, those who belittle your faith, your way of life, those who mock your life values. If I mean to you what you mean to me then you will do what you can to be there for your brothers and sisters in need. You will feed the hungry, clothe the naked, be there for men and women who are sick and lonely. If I mean to you what you mean to me then you will do what you can to force the powers that be to cut through red tape and government bureauarcy and open our borders to the refugees of the Middle East. If I mean to you what you mean to me then sometime in the course of the day may you stop and think of me and offer a prayer of thanksgiving for all the blessing with which your life is blessed. You are always on my mind, will you be mindful of me?
As we continue to celebrate this Mass together we pray for ourselves and for each other that every day we be willing to find the answer to the question Jesus asks each of us in the gospel – who am I to you?