Who Do You Say That I am?

Who do you say that I am? Luke’s gospel (9:18-24) tells us that when Jesus posed this question, Peter responded immediately. Matthew’s and Mark’s accounts indicate the same which confirms what we already know: Peter typically replied to Jesus’ queries without hesitation. Sometimes, this promptness served him well. Sometimes, a bit of forethought might have saved Peter a good deal of heartache. I’m afraid that over the years I’ve shared Peter’s propensity to respond quickly with similar results. At times, hurriedly speaking up remedied tough situations. At other times, I made things worse by opening my mouth before my good sense filtered out words which should have remained unspoken. My timing continues to be flawed in many ways. Still, moments spent considering Jesus’ question are perfectly timed. Here is my answer, Lord…

Who do you say that I am? My earliest memories include strolls down the block to church. Sundays always included Mass and dinner in the dining room. Since stores and other businesses were closed, Sunday provided the perfect opportunity to rest and regroup as a family. During the hectic days in between, we acknowledged God in the midst of and in spite of our family circus. Joyful milestones prompted prayers of thanksgiving, while sorrowful events elicited earnest prayer for God’s care. As a child, the most important constant in my life beside my parents was God’s presence. You are the One who is always with us.

Who do you say that I am? As I grew, I learned a good deal about love. I found that more than anything else we all want to be loved. Even when we behave as though we don’t need others, we need someone to love and someone to love us. My parents and our extended family loved me each in his or her own way as best they could. My brother and sisters loved me, too. Still, there were days when I felt that I was not at all lovable and that I was not at all loved. I ended those days with an aching heart. It was on such nights that I turned my seemingly un-lovable self to God. You are the One who always listens.

Who do you say that I am? I clearly recall being angry with God at age sixteen. I knew deep down that I was drawn to the convent. I loved my aunts, Sister Gerard, Sister Ida Marie and Sister Marie Raoul, and I loved many of the sisters whom I’d met along the way. I had little patience with trivial pursuits. I cared about the poor and the outcasts who struggled to survive on the fringe of teenage life. I felt deep compassion for my mom who worked much harder than she should have had to work. I avoided getting into trouble because I couldn’t bear to give her anything more to worry about. I was angry because, just once, I wanted to be a “normal” person who didn’t worry quite so much about everyone and everything. I didn’t realize that there were lots of “normal” people around me whose concern caused them to worry just as much as I did. Angry as I was with God for making me who I am, God never stopped peeking around corners, showing up on a sunny day and smiling through the face of a friend who understood. You are the one who remains faithful to us.

Who do you say that I am? As it happened, opportunity knocked and I finally realized that God had gifted me with free will. I decided to spend a summer during college living with two nuns. We taught English to Spanish-speaking children to prepare them for the coming school year. Sister Liz and Sister Rose taught me to enjoy life a bit more and to worry a bit less. They also encouraged me to accept a date with the handsome young teacher who was hanging out at the rectory. The following year, I completed college, secured a teaching job for the fall and married that teacher during the summer in between. You are the God of Surprises.

Who do you say that I am? Today, I find God in our sons, our daughters-in-law and our grandchildren. As we celebrate Father’s Day, my husband and I enjoy a glimpse of love-fulfilled in the remarkable people whom we are blessed to call our family. Regardless of the challenges along the way, our love for this family and their love for us carries us through. If that isn’t enough, we are blessed with many friends who do the same. In all of this, I see that God has been with me during my happiest, loneliest, most frightening and challenging moments. As I smile and cry, dance and sing, fret and rejoice along the way, God is with me. When you smile and cry, dance and sing, fret and rejoice along the way, God is with you as well. Who do you say that I am? You are the God of Unconditional and Unending Love.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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