Follow Me

September 21, 2017 – Feast of St. Matthew, apostle and evangelist

As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.  (Matthew 9:9-13)

When you read any of the Gospels, it becomes quite clear that people were fascinated by Jesus – both men and women, Jews and Gentiles, Pharisees and fishermen, kings and servants.

The Pharisees, the most learned class of the Jews, had an odd fascination with Him. Jesus was an upstart preacher, the son of a carpenter. He did not have the pedigree to be of any interest to the Pharisees. Why did they care with whom He ate? Why were they watching Him so closely? Was it that He made them question how they themselves were living their lives? Was it because He made them feel uncomfortable?

Other men, who had a job or a trade, seemed willing to leave it all behind and follow Jesus. Just because He said, Follow me? What really made them drop their fishing nets and push away from their customs posts? What was so fascinating to them about Jesus? Was it the realization that there must be more to their lives than what they were experiencing?

Then there were the sinners. Jesus was always surrounded by sinners, who like the others, were fascinated by Him. He didn’t sugarcoat anything. He called them out on their sins. So why hang around someone like that? Why follow a guy you know is going to challenge you on the way you live your life? Perhaps it is because of the other messages that permeated those challenges – His messages of love, forgiveness, and hope.

Jesus is still fascinating after all of these years. The reasons have changed very little: He makes us feel uncomfortable, makes it known that our lives could be so much richer, and calls us on the carpet for our sins, while offering love, forgiveness, and hope.

Fascinating stuff, don’t you think?

He is saying, “Follow me” to you. Will you follow Him eagerly like Matthew and the other sinners did, or will you point at Him and criticize Him from a distance like the Pharisees?

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Are You Willing to Work for Your Faith?

September 20, 2017

Jesus said to the crowds: “To what shall I compare the people of this generation?” (Luke 7:31-35)

After asking this rhetorical question of the crowd, Jesus goes on to give some of the harshest criticism we hear from Him in the gospels, an indictment of the “people of this generation.”

He paints his listeners as people who are never satisfied, people who want to sit back and have things come to them.

Are we willing to work for our faith? Do we sit in judgment of others and point fingers of indignation, rather than putting our efforts toward making a difference in the world?

We pick at our faith and poke holes in our beliefs because complete trust is challenging.

Pray today for the courage to leave yourself vulnerable. Ask God to deepen your faith and make you an instrument of His peace.

Despite Our Unworthiness

September 18, 2017

“I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof…but say the word and let my servant be healed.” (Luke 7:1-10)

These words, spoken by a Roman centurion and used as a part of the Communion Rite of our Catholic Mass, convey a powerful statement of faith. The centurion does not feel worthy of having Jesus come into his home, but trusts that Jesus can heal his servant simply by saying the words. He believes that it is possible.

These words are certainly memorable, and teach a great lesson on faith, but how do they fit into the Mass? Why include them as the words the faithful say prior to receiving Holy Communion?

If you think about it, we are expressing a faith similar to that of the centurion. We are not worthy of receiving so precious a gift as the real presence of Jesus in Holy Communion. By saying these words, we are admitting our unworthiness. We are also saying, “We believe!” We are expressing a firm belief that all things are possible with God. Jesus does not have to be with us in human form for us to recognize His presence.

It is a bold statement.

When we receive Holy Communion the Eucharistic Minister says, “The Body of Christ.” We respond by saying, “Amen.” This puts an exclamation point on our belief in His presence. By saying, “Amen” we are saying “I would stake my life on it.”

None of us are worthy. God’s gift is that He comes to us anyway.

Life WITH Christ

September 16, 2017

“I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant man, but I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief.” (1 Timothy 1: 12-14)

Above are the words of Paul, in his first letter to Timothy. He writes of being “mercifully treated.” This is the same Paul who was knocked off his horse, left temporarily blinded, and was eventually imprisoned and killed for his work on behalf of Jesus Christ. Certainly an odd definition of “mercifully treated.”

Paul is comparing his two distinct lives. First there was his life without Christ, a life spent arresting and persecuting those who followed Him. It was a shallow and empty existence.

Then there was his life with Christ. Despite many hardships and much suffering, his life had meaning and purpose. He was filled with the Holy Spirit and made it his life’s work to bring the Gospel message to others.

His empty, meaningless life was mercifully replaced by one guided by a message of love and hope.

The Time to Respond is Now

September 12, 2017

When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called a Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. (Luke 6:12-19)

To what is God calling us?

Let’s start that conversation by discussing the men Jesus called as Apostles. Make no mistake, the twelve Jesus called were not the best and the brightest. The Rabbis leading the religious communities were surrounded by scholarly disciples. These disciples studied for years and trained under Rabbis before being sent out as learned leaders. Only the best were called. Only the best survived.

Jesus called fisherman and farmers, even a tax collector. He taught them through parables, which they often had difficulty understanding. Even after they were called, they were misfits. Their faith surged and faded. Doubt was always looming. Yet that is who Jesus called; that is who Jesus sent.

The apostles were not special because they were called. None of them were extraordinary by birth. They were special because they responded; they were extraordinary because they answered the call to serve.

You are no different. Each of you has God-given gifts. Each of you have been called. I did not say “will be called.” You can’t sit around waiting for a bolt of lightning or to have the hand of Jesus tap you on the shoulder.

You are here now. The time to act, the time to respond is now.

God calls you everyday to use the gifts you’ve been given to serve others: to volunteer at your church, to be there for a friend who is struggling, to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves, and to grow your faith and take that faith out into the world.

You won’t enjoy eternal life because you were called. You will enjoy it because you responded to the call.

Reflective Insight

September 9, 2017

Some Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?” (Luke 6:1-5)

Because the Pharisees were continually in conflict with Jesus, one might get the impression that they were not a very intelligent group. Just the opposite is true. The Pharisees were the best and the brightest of the Jewish people. They were scholars of Mosaic Law, experts in their field.

The Pharisees were very intelligent, but lacked reflective insight. They were so caught up in the letter of the law that they lost track of the spirit of the law.

Jesus preached a simple message of love – love of God and love of neighbor. It was not His intent to thumb His nose at the law, but rather to provide a framework that would enhance and bring relevance to the law.

Don’t let the clutter of life distract you from what is most important.

Solitude

September 6, 2017

At daybreak Jesus left and went to a deserted place. (Luke 4:38-44)

This is not the only time we hear of Jesus going off by himself. With the public life He was living, He was always “on.” People demanded so much from Him and He recognized how important it was that He respond to their needs. They were, after all, “like sheep without a shepherd.”
Jesus recognized His own needs as well. Sometimes He just needed to get away – to gather His thoughts, to reflect, to mourn, and to pray. He was expressing His humanity and setting an example for us. After all, if it’s good enough for Jesus…
Solitude is underrated. It offers us time away from all of the distractions of life. We can focus on ourselves, calm ourselves, and clear our minds. We can reflect on things we have done or are considering doing.
And, of course, we can pray. We can have open and honest, one-on-one conversations with God. The peace and quiet that comes with solitude will also allow us to hear God’s response.