Inheriting traits from Jesus

Bishop David A Zubik

Bridging the Gap

It is my guess that somewhere along the line in each of our lives we have received an unusual gift, something that we never expected nor even wanted. 

Several years ago at Christmas, my dear goddaughter from Florida gave me one of those ancestry test kits that have become so popular.  Not only did Carla help me unwrap the kit.  Not only did she help me follow the instructions.  But she assisted me in sending back all the particulars to the company that does the genetic analysis.  Within three weeks, the results arrived.  Not many surprises, for sure.  My ancestors came from Eastern Europe.  But an interesting gift.  And an interesting experience.

Long before those DNA kits became a fad, isn’t it often true that we have the tendency to make observations about each other’s inherited traits, especially from our parents.

The most obvious are the physical resemblances.  In my case, I have very definitely inherited my dad’s curly hair, his height, and his prolonged nose.  From my mom, I have inherited facial dimples, brown eyes and moderately fair skin.

But beyond our physical traits, without our realizing it, we inherit behavioral similarities.  I’m sure that you have seen those mugs or tee shirts that carry the message: “I have become my mother” or “I have become my father.”

From my mom, I have inherited an appreciation of cold temperatures.  For her, it could never get too cold.  She was famous for turning down the thermostat in both winter and summer.  To the dismay of my coworkers over the years, I have inherited that particular trait!

Likewise, my dad had a habit of washing our family car as many as four times a week.  He would often say: “Dave, doesn’t it seem like the car rides better when it’s clean?”  And guess what!  I have inherited that very same trait.

But more important than any of our particular family traits, physical or behavioral, are the traits that we inherit from our relationship with Jesus.

Not so long ago at Sunday Mass, we heard a Gospel in which Jesus gathered together his closest cronies, the Apostles, and asked them a very pointed question: “Who do people say that I am?” 

The Apostles offered lots of different responses: “Some say You’re one of the prophets, some say You’re John the Baptist…”  And then Jesus posed the more direct question: “And who do you say that I am?” 

Following some uncomfortable silence, Peter responded: “You are the Christ.”

While he was absolutely correct in his leap of faith, Peter had great difficulty in coming to understand what it would mean for Jesus to be the Christ.  He would have to suffer.  He would have to die before He could rise again.  When Peter heard Jesus describe Himself as the Christ, he objected. 

As I reflect on that Gospel encounter and maybe as you do too, it is important for us to consider how we might have responded to Jesus’ question if we were in the company of the Apostles.  That question has everything to do with our individual lives as Christians and with our life as God’s family, the Church. 

So much of what we have been doing throughout On Mission for The Church Alive! has had as its purpose that we come to KNOW Jesus better—not just to  KNOW ABOUT Him.

But that isn’t enough.  It isn’t enough for us to know about Jesus.  It isn’t even enough for us to know Jesus.  It wasn’t enough for Peter or any of the Apostles.  What Jesus wanted was for them to become more like Him.  As it was with them, so it is true for us.  We need to know about Jesus.  We need to know Jesus.  But, it is especially important for us to become more like Jesus.

Isn’t that ultimately what Jesus wants from each of us?  Think back to February 17 of this year, 2021.  It was Ash Wednesday.  The Gospel that the Church chooses for us as we begin that holy season is the one where Jesus reminds us that we are called to be people who invest in prayer, fasting AND good works.  That’s a charge that we must fully consider not only in Lent but throughout our lives.

Prayer helps to connect us to God, heart to heart. 

Fasting helps us to make space for God in our thoughts, in our hearts and in our lives. 

But it is our good words and works that show Jesus to the world.

When all is said and done, that’s what our ancestry from Jesus is all about!  It is about being like Him, doing what He did, showing His face to the world.

A little earlier in this reflection, I made reference to mugs and tee shirts that have the message: “I have become my mother” or “I have become my father.”

Allow me to suggest a more important one.  The goal for your life and mine, if we are serious about being disciples of Jesus, is to be able to say: “I have become Jesus.”

Photo by Justin Merriman