21st Sunday

     Life is all about decisions. Just think about how many decisions you have to make in a day. Sure most of those decisions are small and only have a limited impact on our life, but every now and then we are faced with major life altering choices. Today’s readings present us with one of those life-altering choices. In the first reading, Joshua tells the Israelites, and by extension us, to decide whom we will serve and then in today’s Gospel Jesus asks His disciples and us a very straightforward question. Are we with Him or not?

     It’s a simple question that each and every one of us has to answer. Do you want to leave? Look it’s really straightforward. In the Scriptures Jesus tells us that He is the Son of God. Either He is or He isn’t. I think by the fact that all of us are gathered here today that it is safe to say we all profess with St. Peter that Jesus has the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that he is the Holy One of God. But are we really mature in our response?

     You see lots of people saw the great things Jesus was doing, but when His teachings got hard they abandoned Him. What about us? Do we follow Jesus just when His teachings are convenient and then walk away when certain teachings are hard to follow? When we encounter teachings from our Church that are hard, are we like so many of Jesus followers in today’s Gospel who walked away or are we, like Jesus’ disciples, convinced that Jesus is the Holy One of God.

     If we truly believe that Jesus is the Son of God, who came into this world to suffer and die for us, the only logical conclusion is to recognize that He truly loves us. After all “no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”[1] Sure some of Jesus’ teachings may be hard to accept, but knowing that Jesus loves us should give us the confidence that He challenges us with these hard teachings because He know that they are good for us.

     If we truly profess God the Father sent His only Son into the world to suffer and die for us, so that we might spend eternity with Him, then we cannot go about our lives pretending that 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 love 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.” [2] Our response to this love of God must be discipleship.

     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 the inner desire to remain in control and to be willing to make sacrifices for a greater good. After all “we will know God to the extent that we give Him room to be present in us.”[3]

     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.”[4] So who are you? Are you like those people who walked away when being a disciple became hard or are you like the apostles who even in the midst of their sinfulness and imperfections were willing to stick with Jesus because we have truly become convinced that He is the Son of God?

[1] Jn 15:13

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

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

[4] Pope Francis. Evangelii Gaudium. Washington DC: USCCB. 2014. Pg 1.

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