User’s Guide to Sunday
By Tom and April Hoopes

June 20 is the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Liturgical Year C, Cycle II).

On June 20 at St. Peter’s Basilica at 9:30am, Pope Benedict XVI will preside at the priestly ordination of the deacons of the Diocese of Rome.

June 24 is the feast of the Birth of St. John the Baptist. It’s also Thursday — the day to say the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary.

The whole story is too long to read during the Rosary, but it’s a fascinating story found in Luke 1:5-22 and 1:58-80. Taken together with the Annunciation and the Visitation, this story represents the first actions inspired by Christ after the incarnation. What’s especially important is that these actions take place while Christ is still in utero and therefore unseen. This is very much like our own experience of Christ. He is at the center of these scenes, but not as an adult who can speak and talk and walk. Instead, his very presence is what redirects and guides Mary, Elizabeth and Zechariah — and us.

For Father’s Day, why not watch a movie that celebrates fatherhood? Pursuit of Happyness — check and preview the movie to see what’s objectionable in it — is a great true story about a real dad. Life Is Beautiful is an Italian film about a dad who uses humor to save his son’s soul in the worst possible situation. Cinderella Man is about a dad willing to do what it takes to care for his family. For a comedy, try Spencer Tracy’s 1950 Father of the Bride. For a classic, there’s To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), starring Gregory Peck.

Zechariah 12:10-11; Psalm 62:2, 3-6, 8-9; Galatians 3:26-29; Luke 9:18-24

Our Take
Then Christ turned to the apostles and asked them, “Who do you say I am?” And they answered: “You are the name we give to the loveable feeling at the center of a belief system that we nonetheless stay in only out of habit, nostalgia and guilt.”

Just kidding. That’s not what the apostles said, of course, because they knew Jesus not as a distant figure, but as a real person.

The Gospel challenges us all to answer Christ’s question in the way they did, because it challenges us each to see Christ as real and close — which seems distinctly impossible. After all, Jesus isn’t camping out, traveling and boating with us on a great adventure in healing, like he was with them. How could we possibly share their experience?

The Psalm and second reading show a way.

The Psalm describes the experience of “Christlessness” the Jews had for centuries. The prayer sounds almost desperate: “For you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts, like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.” Then it sounds delirious with joy: “In the shadow of your wings I shout for joy; my soul clings fast to you.”

This is precisely the experience we should have of the absence of Christ in our life — and this is the joy we should feel when he’s part of our life.

Which he is, says St. Paul. Remember: St. Paul once prayed that Psalm with all the desperation of Christlessness. When the Psalm literally came true in front of him, he followed through with the joy.
He never traveled and camped with Jesus, but in today’s reading, he shows he felt how close he was: “You who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ,” he writes. “There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free person; there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

So when Christ asks us who he is, we don’t have to answer like the crowds: that he’s someone distant — a great religious preacher, a stunning seer, a historical figure.

We can say, “You are the Christ, the one that all time has waited for, the answer to the pleadings of we who thought we had been abandoned by God; the one who gives peace to anyone who accepts the cross; the one who makes sense of everything else; the one who has united himself to me in baptism and teaches that I am worth more than I ever imagined.”

Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas.