ColumnsNaming Grace

‘But who do you say that I am?’

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During the last two years of my mother’s life, when she was suffer­ing with dementia, the minute darkness fell she would declare, “It’s time to go home.” She would jump up and within minutes Mom and Dad were out the door. During this time, she also headed to bed early— 6 p.m. early. And Mom always expected Dad to go with her. Each night, Dad faithfully trod off to bed with her, whether sleepy or not. No matter what Mom requested, Dad would simply smile, “Whatever makes her happy, as long as it doesn’t hurt her.” Daily, nightly, Dad denied himself, picked up his cross and followed Jesus by caring for Mom—without complaint. Over a lifetime of sacrificial love, Dad has answered Jesus’ primary question: “But who do you say that I am?” Jesus is the Christ of God, the one who lays down his life for others.


“But who do you say that I am?” remains the heart-piercing question each of us must answer—all while our children/grandchildren are watching our every move and listening to our every word. From the crack of dawn to the last moments of night they ask silently, “Is Jesus for real?” “Do you really follow Him?” “What difference does Jesus make?” “Is your faith authentic?” We answer these pivotal questions daily by how we live and how we speak.

As a child, when I awoke from a nightmare, my mother would lie beside me and gently remind me of Jesus’ presence. We would then pray the Hail Mary. In the midst of comforting me, Mom answered Jesus’ question: “But who do you say that I am?” Jesus is the Christ of God, the Good Shepherd who protects us.

During the 1980s, when debates raged over AIDS, my dad shook his head and sighed, “How could any parent disown a son or daughter?” Dad’s words of acceptance spoke clearly his answer to Jesus’ question: “But who do you say that I am?” Jesus is the Christ of God, the one who loves us unconditionally.

We name grace—God’s presence—in the domestic church, as we love and comfort our children, building a basic trust in Jesus as our Good Shepherd. We name grace as we speak of God’s goodness and treat all people with respect and dignity. We name grace as we follow Jesus, day in and day out, without complaint, by comforting a crying baby in the middle of the night when bone tired or visiting an elderly neighbor when beyond busy.

Someday our children will be faced with the same jarring question: “But who do you say that I am?” Initially, they may hem and haw: “Well, the church says this.” “My parents say that.” “My school teachers and religious educators say this.” But eventually they must answer this all-important question themselves.

Their eyes are on us and how we live and speak today directly influences their answer tomorrow. Each time we act with love, compassion, mercy, courage and humility, we equip our children to answer Jesus’ fundamental question: “But who do you think that I am?” Now, that’s good news!

Happy Father’s Day to all dads who have shown God’s unconditional love! Our prayers for all the victims and families of Orlando.

What is your answer to Jesus’ question: “But who do you say that I am?”

Naming Grace in the Domestic Church reflects on the Sunday readings through the lens of a parent/grandparent, aiding parents in their vital task as “first preachers” of the Good News in the home.