13th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

     

     What are the most important moments of your life? If I went around the Church I’m sure many of you would probably say your wedding day, the birth of your children or even your own birthday. While those are historically important moments in your life which should be cherished and remembered, with the fear of being run out the Church, I dare say they are not actually the most important moments in your life. After all did you notice that all of those events are in the past? Sure they are important moments which still affect our lives and if this world was all there was then those moments would be the most important, but we know that we have an eternal destiny awaiting us after this life. The choice we make right now and the choices we will make in the future will determine whether we decided to accept Christ’s invitation to love Him and enjoy eternal happiness in heaven or to turn our back on Him.  So I dare say the most important moments our lives are “now and at the hour of our death?”[1]

     In today’s busy world there can be a tendency for those of us who want to live out our faith, to fall into the trap of seeing it as being just one more thing on our to do list. But our faith isn’t just one more thing on our to do list, it is the lens, the reasons for which we do everything on our list. We are not called to do Catholicism, we are called to be Catholic. Today’s readings invite us to commit ourselves totally to Christ. In the first reading we hear about the prophet Elisha who leaves his mother and father behind to follow the calling of God. In fact, Elisha is so committed to following after Christ, he kills his oxen and burns his plowing equipment. He slaughters the only means he has of sustaining himself, in essence making it impossible for him to turn back.

     Just as Jesus called the prophet Elisha to follow after Him, He extends that very same invitation to us. Christ is calling us, but like those followers in today’s Gospel, we often have excuses. What is your excuse?  What is it that is keeping you from wholly following after Christ? What are the oxen and cattle in your life that need to be burned?

     Friends, if we truly want to be Christians, we need to follow Jesus at every moment of our lives. For “with him everything. Without him nothing. He is the Lord.”[2] If you are anything like me, there is often the temptation to look into the past to assure myself that I am a good person. But Jesus gives us a strong warning today’s Gospel about dwelling on our past saying “no one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of heaven.” Think about it for a second, if we try to plow forward and we keep looking back, are we not going to get crooked lines ahead? In looking back and resting on our previous accomplishments, we take our eyes off the true goal of heaven, and why should we let events from the past keep us from heaven in the future? “Being a Christian can only take the form of becoming a Christian ever anew; that it is not an event now over and done with, but a process requiring constant practice.”[3] All of us are practicing Catholics — practicing in the sense that we haven’t perfected it yet and only those in whom Christ is brought to perfection can enter Heaven. So this moment and the moment of our death, are the opportunity to work towards that perfection, towards eternal life.

     Discipleship is not for the weak of heart. Following Jesus demands a radical reorientation of our lives. Being a disciple calls us to put our faith first in our lives, to make following Christ the primary focus in our lives, trusting that the rest will fall into place. To be a disciple demands that we abandon that inner desire to remain in control and to be being willing to make sacrifices for a greater good. “We will know God to the extent that we give Him room to be present in us.”[4] While many of us don’t want to have to make sacrifices, are sacrifices not a fact of life? The question is not whether we will have to sacrifice, but rather what are we willing to sacrifice for. While discipleship demands sacrifice we know that “the Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step toward Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there waiting for us with open arms.”[5]

     Jesus, through the witness of His life, teaches us how to become disciples. He who is God left the glorious throne of heaven, and even abandoned earthly riches to become so poor that He had nowhere to lay his head so that He could save us. He came into this world knowing He would be betrayed and die a horrific death because His love was greater than any hate anyone could do to him. In fact “His power to effect conversion stems from the fact that he is ready to endure the hatred of those he loves.”[6] Jesus invites us then to love and not look back. He calls us to imitate His selfless love, a love which does not count the cost. Is there a place in your heart for this love? If so then we need to heed Jesus’ words and “come follow me.”

[1] Hail Mary Prayer.

[2]St. Faustina Kowalska. Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska.  Stockbridge:Marian Press. (2011). Pg 161.

[3] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Dogma and Preaching Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011.  Pg. 280.

[4] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Dogma and Preaching Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011.  Pg. 325.

[5] Pope Francis. Evangelii Gaudium. Washington DC: USCCB. (2014)  Pg. 1.

[6] Robert Cardinal Sarah. God or Nothing: A Conversation on Faith with Nicolas Dias San Francisco: Ignatius (2015) Pg. 174.

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