Who Am I? No really...

At the beginning of Pope Francis' papacy he was asked by a reporter "... and who is Pope Francis?" His response: "I am a sinner." Most of our life revolves around the "I", our ego, and we know that every sin is selfish. It is about what I want, what I can do, what I need, but if there's one thing everyone in our Church should know just through sheer repetition it is that "It is not about you."

In today's Gospel, John 9:1-41, you have this great story of the man born blind who is healed by Jesus. However, it requires a little bit of backstory. You see prior to this John has recounted much of Jesus' active ministry where He is going around preaching and He is trying to communicate to people who He really is. So, Jesus says things like: "I am the bread of life", "I am the light of the world", "I am the door", "I am the good shepherd", "I am the true vine", "I am the way, the truth, and the life". All throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus keeps saying "I am..." Remember that line back in Exodus, "I am who I am" was God's holy name revealed through the burning bush to Moses! It was this name that was so holy Jews would not say it when reading the Torah out of reverence.

Yet here Jesus is, shockingly yet reverently pointing back to that sacred truth. Then at the end of the eighth chapter you have a dramatic scene where people try to accuse Jesus of not being truly Jewish and even having a demon. The story culminates with Jesus claiming that He knows Abraham because He knows God His Father personally and then this intense line "Truly, Truly, I say to you before Abraham was, I am." NO ONE hearing this would have missed the point. Jesus' refrain of "I am..." I am..." I am..." has now crescendoed into this direct claim that HE IS DIVINE. His listeners got the point, which is why the next line is about them picking up stones to throw at him.

Ok, now we can read today's Gospel, this ninth chapter of John in clearer light. The man was born blind, he was a beggar, he was overlooked and forgotten, he was pitied sometimes and held in contempt at other times. Then he encounters Jesus, Jesus heals him, and in a way baptizes him through his washing in the pool. After all this happens everyone who knew this man in his former way of life is pretty confused. They start to question whether this even is the same man, some doubt, some halfway believe, no one really knows for sure... except the man who was healed. It is here in the ninth chapter where you get the only other "I am" statement in John, this one coming from the man who was born blind and now can see.

Don't you see?!? Who am I? Who are you? If I stay focused just on myself then I would have to say that I am blind, I am prideful, I am selfish, I am a sinner. That's the only proper attitude we could have for ourselves without God's grace. However, if we encounter Christ, if we look at him with healed vision, if our life is His life, then who are you? You are now a son or daughter of God! You are now someone who knows the Father because you know Christ. You are now and forever will be, not the sum of your weaknesses, faults, or sins but defined by the measure of God's love for you! (JPII)

"God became man, so that man might become like God" -St. Irenaeus and St. Athanasius

An encounter with Christ is supposed to wake you up, to make your eyes open, to get you out of your own head. Who am I? I'm a sinner. However, through Christ, through His life, that door of Grace, walking His way, who am I? I am a son of the Father. All that sin and sickness comes when we just focus on ourselves, grace and glory come when we focus on the Father through the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Things are pretty crazy right now and the temptation for all of us is to focus on ourselves and become a little more selfish and therefore a little more sinful. That's not who you are. Or at the very least it is not who you were created to be. Focus on someone else during this time, but most importantly increase and deepen your prayer life so that you can focus on God. That last line should define you. Who am I? I was a sinner. I am now and always will be someone loved by God.

God bless you and yours,

Fr. Boelscher


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