When I was a kid, I always knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I would take this yellow, cone-shaped thing that was intended to catch a small plastic ball and use it to pretend it was my steering wheel. My imagination turned this into the steering wheel of my tractor trailer that I would drive all over the country, delivering “stuff” to people that needed it. It was awesome! Because I was doing it and it appeared as if I were having fun at the same time, it intrigued my younger brother to want to do the same thing. He and I would play for hours, imagining that we were bringing “stuff” to others in need and we saw (or pretended to see) how their lives were better because of the gifts we were able to provide. Funny, looking back at that time of my life, it felt good to know I was pretending to do good for others and through that, receiving rewards myself.
As a child, I thought I knew what I was to do, the path that I would walk and the deeds that I would offer to others in need. I felt this was my calling and “who” I was intended to be. I thought that everyone around me knew who I was as well.
When I began looking at the readings for this particular reflection, specifically the Gospel of Mark 8:27-35, I envisioned Jesus as a child and playing with His friends. Enjoying His life as “He”. Looking at the life of Christ as a pre-teen and then as an adult, it completely changed and His calling became clear not only to Jesus, but to His followers. Just as our lives change based upon our knowledge, experiences and faith.
As Catholics who open themselves up to learning about their faith and our Lord, responsibility follows because now we know. Now we have been shown. Like Christ asked the disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” Many offered responses until Peter said in reply to the question, “You are the Christ.” Peter knew this because he had witnessed and been shown through the words, actions and ways of Jesus “who” He was. Peter and the disciples at that point had to decide for themselves, just as we do, the path which their lives would take.
Would Peter and the disciples continue driving their “tractor trailers” as they had before, or would they begin walking the path of discipleship as they had been shown? It hit me: I was being asked to be like Peter for my younger brother. I can still be like Peter for him and all others today.
I looked back at the second reading, James 2:14-18, and thought about the first couple of lines: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith, but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” We can say we are “something (Christians)” but, if we do not show it through our actions to follow our words, we’ll simply be pretending rather than performing. The same as the pretending I would do as a child before I was shown by life’s paths what I was truly meant to be.
The first reading from Isaiah 50: 5-9 also brings this into our thoughts. The very first line of this scripture states, “The Lord God opens my ear that I may hear, and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.”
Again, as with the Gospel and first reading, God is challenging us to practice our faith, not simply state it. When the worries and troubles of life come upon us – and they will – we must not turn our backs from what we have been shown by our Lord. When facing adversity, overcome; when seeing unjust acts, act in righteous ways; when being mocked because of your faith, turn your cheek and pray.
Are you pretending to be something? God stands waiting for you and He has shown you the path to His Kingdom. He has provided you with the truth of who He is by His words, actions and ways. Because of that, we must not turn our heads and look away from the prize which awaits. We must be what He intends of us to be: disciples. We must be His followers and the deliverer of His word. We must be the best versions of ourselves by showing His face to all we encounter in and through our words, actions and ways.
Don’t pretend to drive the truck.
May God bless you and yours today and always.