My key word for today is “Witness” and in the Bible Witness means reporting the truth. But first, a little story that leads into my homily.
About 250 years before Jesus was born there was a ruler in Greece who received a gold crown as a gift. But he was suspicious. Yes, he was suspicious. He thought that it might be partially gold and partially silver. It might not be pure gold. So, he gave it to the royal scientist, Archimedes, for evaluation.
Archimedes thought long and hard but could not come up with a method to test the authenticity of the crown. Then one day the solution came to him as he was stepping into the bathtub. He noticed how the water was rising because his body was displacing the water. He ran into the street shouting, “Eureka. Eureka! I have found the solution.” He was so excited that he failed to notice that he was still wearing his birthday suit. He was excited because he had found the solution. All he had to do was place the crown in a bowl of water and observe how much water was displaced. And then place a chunk of solid gold of equal weight in the same bowl of water and measure how much water was displaced. Silver is less dense than gold. Therefore, it displaces more water than gold.
He conducted the experiment and discovered that the crown was partially silver. It was not 100 per cent gold after all! Then he ran into the streets reporting the truth that the crown was not pure gold.
In John’s Gospel we read that Philip was filled with excitement one day when he was searching for Nathaniel. He found him and said: “Eureka. Eureka! We have found him. We have found the Messiah!” “He is Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” But Nathaniel did not share his excitement. He said, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Nathaniel was the contemplative type. It was hard for him to get excited about anything.
We think that Nathaniel was a contemplative because Philip found him under a fig tree and Micah chapter 4 and Zechariah chapter 3 tell us that the fig tree was a traditional place to go to for contemplation. Philip did not flinch when he saw Nathaniel’s cold response. He continued to be excited about his discovery. He continued to say, “Eureka. Eureka! I have found him. Come and see.”
When Nathaniel finally got to see Jesus, his attitude changed completely. He said to Jesus, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God. You are the Messiah.” It took a while, but Nathaniel finally got excited. He finally became a believer.” From there he went forth to tell people, “Eureka. Eureka! I have found Him. I have found the Messiah. He is Jesus of Nazareth. He is the Son of God.” Nathanial was serious about giving witness to the Messiah. So serious that he brought this Good News to Armenia and all the way to India.
In today’s Gospel Peter was all geared up and ready to go forth and witness. Jesus was asking his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And Peter said to him, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” And Jesus said, “You are correct because God has revealed this to you.”
Then Peter said, “I am going back to Jerusalem, and I will tell our people that our Messiah is here and he will help us to drive the Romans out of our beloved country.” Jesus said to him, “Hold everything. Stop right there. You have the wrong message. You are supposed to witness to the whole truth, and you have a partial truth.” Peter’s faith told him that Jesus is the glorious Messiah. said to him, “That is true. But now your faith must expand because I am also the suffering Messiah. I must suffer many things, be rejected by the elders and chief priests, be crucified and after three days rise again.”
Those were the words that Jesus used to explain to Peter that he is both the glorious Messiah and the suffering Messiah. At the end of today’s Gospel, Jesus says to Peter: “Don’t tell anyone that I am the Messiah.” In other words: Don’t give witness until you get the message straight! Don’t give witness until you believe that I am both the suffering Messiah and the glorious Messiah?
So what did the suffering Messiah do? Charity and Justice. Those two words summarize his ministry: Charity and Justice. He went from village to village doing works of Charity and works of Justice.
Charity means helping those who cannot pay you back. Jesus went forth to serve the lepers and the sick and the lame and the blind and many others who could not pay him back.
Justice means distributing the world’s goods so that no one is in need. That is the kind of justice that Jesus called for in Matthew, Chapter 25. Those who have food should share with those who have none. Those who have 2 coats should share with those who have none. Those who have housing should provide housing for those who have none. Jesus was calling the people of his day and the people of our day to distribute the world’s goods so that no one is need.
The suffering Messiah was working for charity and justice.
The story of giving witness has one more chapter and we are that chapter. We are called to be modern day witnesses. We are called to tell people that Jesus is the Suffering Messiah and the Glorious Messiah. We give witness by doing works of charity and justice. We give witness by proclaiming that His suffering has washed away our sins and His resurrection has purchased our justification.