24 Sunday in Ordinary Time
MK 8:27-35
September 16, 2018

The scene opens with a prosperous-looking young man wearing fancy sunglasses and driving a shiny convertible sports car along an ocean highway…wind blowing through his hair and a great big toothy smile on his face. Switch to the same young man, riding a bicycle down a quaint little street in Paris. Next, we find him in an art gallery, contemplating a painting. Finally, we see him in an upscale restaurant, surrounded by a group of laughing friends, clearly the center of attention and enjoying every minute. The man is “Terry.”

As the video plays, the narrator explains that “Terry” got a new car, went on a vacation to Paris, bought an incredibly expensive piece of modern art…and then the kicker…the only problem is: this is Terry. And it’s then that the scene changes to a pink bedroom, where we see sitting cross-legged on her bed doing homework, a young girl. It’s one of several TV commercials that a cyber security firm is airing; cautioning that “millions of young children have already had their identity stolen.” The firm offers to protect our kids from bad people on the so-called “dark web.”

I don’t have any idea of how important it is to engage this kind of service to protect the identity of our children. What I do know with absolute certainty is this: it is imperative for us to start at an early age forming them as Roman Catholics if there is any hope of protecting their identity as followers of Jesus Christ!

The Gospel for this Catechetical Sunday is all about identity. Jesus questions Peter about the popular conception of who He is. Peter acknowledges that there is confusion among most people regarding Jesus’s identity. Peter, on the other hand, correctly identifies Jesus as “The Christ,” but the Lord cautions Peter to keep this confidential. Why keep His identity secret?

This is something that Scripture scholars reflect on, discuss, and even debate. One very likely possibility is that Jesus knew that the “popular conception” of what it means to be “The Christ” was wrong. People’s expectations of Him were many and varied, and, in some cases, contradictory to His purpose and plan. Peter, for example, correctly identified Jesus as “The Christ” but did not understand what that meant. It is possible that even the Apostles needed to grow into an appreciation of the role of “The Christ.” After all, it is a stretch to think that “The Christ” should suffer and die in order to fulfill His mission in this world.

Likewise, it is a stretch to embrace all that is expected of us as faithful disciples. All three Readings this weekend explain what it takes to be properly identified with “The Christ.” It is a challenge that requires a lifetime to get even close to right. Throughout our lives, we must continue to learn and mature into an understanding of what is required of a person in order to be recognized as a Christian. It’s a steep learning curve, and the process, when possible, should begin in the cradle.

It is a sacred duty to continue to pass on the faith to the next generation. Our parishes help families satisfy the obligation to continue to grow in the faith and to pass it on to our children. Families can best protect their identity by taking advantage of every opportunity offered by the local Church. And so, this Sunday, we join Catholics around the world by protecting our identity as followers of The Christ by re-committing to continue to learn and grow in our faith…and to live what we learn.