A Word #152| 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time| July 2, 2017

Jun 28, 2017

"Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

Some time ago I was invited to dinner at a friend's house. They also had invited friends of theirs to dinner who I had never had met before. In the course of the dinner we spoke about our Catholic faith and what it means to practice and live it today. One of the guests spoke about the sad decline of people from all demographics who are leaving the faith because the faith to them has become irrelevant and impractical in the lives. The other mentioned that the Church needs to change its attitude and make things entertaining and joyful. Across the board, ideas and suggestions were discussed how the Church is or isn't. When it was my turn to speak I shared that the Church has been around for 2000 years and has survived persecutions, war, plagues, politics, and division but the Church that Jesus founded still exists. I explained that the Church is an organic and divine institution that both changes and yet is unchanged. She grows yet remains eternal. The problem of Christianity is not that the Church needs to get with the times but rather the time needs to catch up with the Church.

The Church is not here for entertainment or pleasure but rather to challenge us "to become the better versions of ourselves!" The Church is the voice of Jesus calling us to be disciples, to be different, counter-cultural, and to share the good news of the Gospel. However, the mission and vocation of a disciple (you and I) is not without its hardships and difficulties. The path marked out for us by Jesus is stained with His blood, sweat, and tears and those of the saints of yesterday and today. Christianity is not and never has been primarily a "feel-good religion." Yes there is joy and celebration that has its root in the Resurrection of Jesus but to get there we also need to carry and kiss the Cross of Christ. Some Christians don't want to carry the cross or avoid Good Friday all together, but if such a Christian possesses this attitude one therefore cannot call themselves a true Christian. You cannot separate the Cross from the Resurrection. They are inseparable and intimately bound together. To be a disciple of Jesus, a disciple must be willing whether voluntarily or involuntarily to kiss the Cross. 

The message of Jesus in today's Gospel is a continuation of the prior Sunday's Gospel. The mission and vocation of a disciple. Yes, the task of the disciple is to acknowledge Jesus as Lord in both word and action without fear, but it also requires a preference to Jesus and embracing His cross as He leads us to salvation. 

Don't be alarmed! Jesus is not telling us to hate our parents, relatives, or friends. It would be a violation of the Fourth Commandment! Nevertheless, Jesus does want us to make Him first before any other human relationship. He takes priority. For a first century disciple such a preference made a lot of sense since it was a very real possibility that some parents or relatives would turn their child or sibling into the authorities for being a Christian. For us this may seem unthinkable, but in other parts of the world it does happen.

The sort of disciple that Jesus calls is not one who is "halfway in or halfway out," a disciple is or isn't. If we want to be the disciple we were baptized to be then we must be "all in." We must be willing to put everything on the line if we truly want to be called a disciple. Don't forget last week’s Gospel with the message of todays: "So do not be afraid" and "Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it...Amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward."

Yours in Christ,

 

Fr. John