3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

     Last year I was back in school furthering my studies in medical moral theology and had to fly to Philadelphia to sit for final exams in the fall. After a long morning all that stood between me and my flight back to St. Louis was a 15 minute oral exam. I had studied hard and felt prepared for any question they could ask. I walked into the exam and the professor said, “I have just one question, please explain the principle of double effect.” Now the principle of double effect is one of the most basic principles of moral theology which, while often applied to medical cases, is not strictly a principal of medical moral theology, so it was not on my radar of things to study. I had spent hours studying all kinds of complex questions and I was going to pass or fail this program based on how I answered a very basic question. Fortunately, I answered the question, but as I flew home I couldn’t stop thinking why I was asked such a basic question. Eventually, I realized my professor had taught me the most important lesson of the program in the final exam: namely that no matter how complex things get, it is important to go back to the basics.

     As we start a new year, our readings invite us to do just that; to go back to the basic tenants of our life. Last Sunday, our readings challenged us to ask ourselves who we are. We were encouraged to start the new year by rooting our identity, not in what we do, but in who we are; beloved sons and daughters of God. Today’s Gospel invites us to take the next logical step, and ask ourselves what the purpose of our life is because If we truly believe that we are sons and daughters of God, then we must also recognize that God created us in love and humbly admit that God knows us better than ourselves. If we want to go back to the basics, we need to ask God, who He is calling us to be.

     When we ask God to show us our mission in life we will hear the same invitation He extended to the apostles; the invitation to come and follow Him. Now God calls us to follow Him in both big ways and in everyday small ways. He calls each of us to a vocation, the primary way in which we live out Jesus call to know, love and serve Him, whether that be in the priesthood or religious life, in the married life or in the single state. While younger people need to take the time to seriously consider their state in life, God does not stop calling us once we have made that big vocational decision. No, He is always calling us to follow after Him in unique ways within our own vocations.

     Those first apostles had their own lives, but when Christ called, they were willing to drop everything immediately and follow after Him. If we are going to go back to the basics, I think all of us need to ask ourselves if we are willing to drop everything and follow after Him. We need to ask ourselves what are those things in our lives, that we need to leave behind so that we can follow Christ with an undivided heart?

     If we take the time, to ask God how He wants us to follow after Him, we will recognize that “God asks everything of us, yet at the same time he offers everything to us.”[1]  “Christianity is not a religion of fear but of trust and of love for the Father who loves us.”[2] When you take seriously this invitation to follow Christ as His disciple, “you must never think that you are alone in deciding your future and second when deciding your future you must not decide for yourself alone.”[3] After all “development is impossible without upright men and women, without financiers and politicians whose consciences are finely attuned to the requirement of the common good.”[4]

     Following Christ means living like Him, loving like Him and sometimes, even suffering like Him. God wants to spread His message of peace and love to the whole world, but He needs us to go about proclaiming the kingdom of heaven through the way we live our lives. God wants to reach out to our world but to do so, He needs our hands and our feet, but ultimately God needs our abandonment to His will. You see “Jesus always has victory when he has your abandonment. He needs nothing more than that to bring about the Divine wonders that His Heart has prepared for you from all eternity.”[5]

     At the heart of this call to go back to the basics, is the call to recognize who we are, to see the talents and mission that God has given us and to ask ourselves how we can faithfully live that mission out in our daily service to the Gospel and the Kingdom of God, which God calls us to. God has blessed each of His children with different gifts and talents which he calls us to use to allow His light to shine in the darkness of our lives. What is God calling you to?

[1] Pope Francs Evangelical Gaudium Washington DC: USCCB. (2014)  Par 7.

[2] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Prayer. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor (2013) Pg. 201

[3] Karol Cardinal Wojtyla. The Meaning of Vocation. United States: Scepter Publishers, 1997. Pg 10

[4] Pope Benedict XVI. Caritas in Veritate. Washington DC: US Conference of Catholic Bishops. (2009)Par 74.

[5] Fr. Jean CJ D’Elbee. I Believe in Love. Manchester: Sophia Institute Press. (2001.) pg. 89.

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