Who do people say that we are?
The Rev. Leonard Oakes
In the Gospel of Mark 8:27-38, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” Why is Jesus interested to know about what people say about him? Is he not aware that they know him to be the son of Joseph the carpenter? Others regard him as John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the Prophets? Jesus is aware that his disciples have gone through the villages and have gathered information about what people say about him. Jesus has been away for a while and the people might have forgotten about him, thus he asked the question, “Who do people say that I am?
Jesus is trying to determine about what people say who he is and what his disciples think he is and try to correct them.
See, Jesus wanted to make sure that he won’t have an identity crisis not only from the people that surround him but also among his followers. He asked, “But who do you say that I am?”
There were two old friends who met each other after a long time. Unable to remember the identity of his old friend, one of them said: “Gosh, I haven’t seen you in years. I can’t seem to remember – was it you or was it your brother who died?”
If identity were a matter of what others say, then there can be a lot of mistaken identity. That is why Jesus goes on to ask: “But who do you say that I am?” True identity is found not on what others say for that is hearsay, but on what the person say.
Jesus points out today that true identity is what or who God says we are. Jesus praises Peter for his personal knowledge of Him, but rebukes him for objecting to His true identity to the Father as the Messiah who will have to be rejected and killed and rise again. The bottom line of identity is who or what God says.
The story is told about a priest who advised an old man to start thinking about the hereafter. To which the old man replied: “Father, I do that all the time. Wherever I am – in the kitchen, in the laundry, in the living room – I ask myself: Now what is it that I’m here after?” Indeed, what is it that we are after in this world and in our lives?
And so we ask ourselves, who are we and why are we here in this specific place. Did we just find ourselves here out of the sudden, or we were sent here for a reason? Is it enough that we come here or is there a specific reason why we are here and we should listen deeply to our callings and discern to follow them and begin to flourish and bloom the love of Christ that is within us?
The beauty of Holy Child and St. Martin Church is that we come from different culture, traditions and faith. We respect each other and strive to know each other better before and after the service. We take time to sit and make conversation with someone whom we don’t know much and begin knowing each other. We have the time to sit over a cup of tea or coffee and share our own struggles in life and there we find strength and support.
That’s how Holy Child and St. Martin is introduced to the world, a place of worship, a place where all faith can come together and a place where respect and true identity are shared.
I just learned lately that people are talking about the growing seed that’s happening at Holy Child and St. Martin when someone said to me, “Fr. Leonard, I heard about your wonderful health and wellness program and your mission to reach out to the uninsured and medically deprived members of the society in your area.” I asked, “And how did you learn about that?” She said, “Through your website and words of mouth from the community.” I further added that we are currently working with Seton Medical Center, New Haven Health and Hospice Care Inc, Clinic by the Bay and Rota Care of Daly City, in recruiting registered nurses who will volunteer their times to follow up patients in health education and medication management, and that we have opened our Health Clinic rooms for Free blood pressure checking, heart rate, lungs and weight monitoring with wonderful health professional volunteers every Sunday from 9 am to 3 pm and Monday at 8 am to 11 am.
Last Monday at our regular Monday Bread for the World ministry, we had someone new from the community who came in because she saw the sign, “Free bread, pastries and dance.” She did not only take bread for her family, she also helped us wrap bread and joined in the Dance exercise.
Haidee and I had the wonderful opportunity to dine with John and Heather Cooper at the Buon Gusto Italian restaurant last Thursday. John is the current Senior Warden of St. James Episcopal Church in Lincoln California. Heather is the treasurer and member of the Stewardship Committee of the Church. We shared about our common ministry to the church and the community. Just as we know about their programs, they too have learned about ours.
At yesterday’s retirement of Mrs. Myrna Villalon, some of her visitors visited me in my office and they said, “Fr. Leonard, we noticed the huge improvements inside and outside the church. We would love to be able to come by sometime at your Sunday service.” I shared with them about the miracle of the Santo Nino and the project of a stained glass window. I introduced them to St. Martin of tours, San Martin the Porres, the Senior De Los Milagros, San Isidro and Santa Maria Virgin Mulawin, and that this Church welcomes all faiths for there is only One God who is our Father.
Why am I saying these stories? It makes me wonder how people know about us and our programs from a sky view with that of how much do we, in our close view, know about our programs and the opportunities that are knocking in our mission to spread the love of God here and around us? I said that because, it is my hope that each one of us will feel the belongingness of every grace and ministry we are called to do and be a part of walking the talk.
Last Sunday, I shared about the gift of hearing and that we are blessed with open ears to hear the word of God and do them. I shared about the poetic song of Simon and Garfunkel where it says, “People hearing without listening, people writing songs that voices never shared.” I then challenged you to do something about the wonderful message you heard and start making a difference.
Well, let me tell you, last Friday night, Alona Garcia-Pailano took her two kids with her and started organizing the Children Sunday School room and I invite you to go see the miracle she has done. She is inviting others to come and help in the painting.
Desiree Alesna, stepped up to volunteer as a licensed Arthritis instructor and a licensed Taichi and Zumba instructor.
Romy and Amy Mijares stepped up as co-chairs of the Bread for the world program.
Fr. Jureck Fernandez also stepped up to chair the Acolyte trainings and organize the men’s group.
Ada Fernandez and Gloria Digno have signified to be part of the Lay Eucharistic Ministry (LEM).
Many others have stepped up to take part in the life and work of the Church. You see, each of us are beginning to shine in the love of God by letting others know about who we are and what we can do to spread the good news about the Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ who is with us.
So I ask you today to look around you, what is it that you can do in your simple but humble ways to make the love of God in Jesus Christ be visible in this Church. Look at the person next to you or around you, How much do you know about that person or persons and how would you plan to share your story with that person trusting that such sharing is just between you and that person alone? I encourage you all to continue sharing the love of Christ, the Messiah, to be our guide in our togetherness in this wonderful place, Holy Child and St. Martin Episcopal Church in Daly City.