22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

     In last Sunday’s Gospel, we were challenged to proclaim with St. Peter that Jesus is truly the Son of God, and in today’s Gospel we are invited to step back and see the ramifications of the proclamation. You see if we truly profess Jesus to be the Son of God, then our whole way of living must change. If God really came into this world, to suffer and die for us, so that we might spend eternity with Him, then we cannot go about our lives pretending it didn’t happen. The love of the cross demands a response, but “God does not demand of us a feeling which we ourselves are incapable of producing. He loves us, he makes us see and experience his love, and since he has ‘loved us first,’ love can also blossom as a response within us”[1] Our response to this love of God must be discipleship.

     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] In today’s Gospel Jesus shows us the cost of true discipleship. He shows us that to be His true disciple we must be willing to give up everything to follow Him. While our redemption costs us nothing, authentic discipleship will cost us everything. The cross begs us to love Christ just as He has loved us. It demands that we be willing to give up everything in love. After all if Jesus gave up everything, including His life, to do the Father’s will, shouldn’t we too be willing to give up everything to follow Him.

     “To follow Christ means to become one who loves as God has loved.”[3] Jesus loves us by giving His life for us and since true “love demands freedom from one thing in order to place itself freely at the service of another,”[4] to love God demands that we be willing to give up anything, to pick up our crosses and follow Him. What then are you still holding onto that is keeping you from being a true follower of Jesus Christ? What must you let go of so that you can follow Jesus with your whole, heart, mind and soul? Is there anything in your life that is keeping you from responding to Jesus’ invitation to follow Him with your whole heart? If there is we must do anything it takes to remove that obstacle to true discipleship. To love Jesus is certainly extreme, but Jesus loved us to the extremes of the cross, so to love Him rightly we must be willing to give Him everything in love.

     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.”[5] 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.”[6]

     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.”[7] 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 “come follow me.” My friends, if we truly profess that Jesus is the Son of God, then we must be willing to give up everything to follow Him, we must be willing to follow Him through the cross to light.

[1] Pope Benedict XVI.Deus Caritas Est. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006.  Par 17.

[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. 129.

[4] Fulton Sheen. The World’s First Love Mary, Mother of God. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011. Pg 26.

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

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

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

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