13th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C 2016:
Today in the gospel Jesus says: follow me. Hopefully these aren’t just words we hear, hopefully Jesus’ invitation to follow him is a call that each one of us has heard in our hearts. Hopefully this is a call to which all of us are responding every day. Isn’t that what brings us here to Mass? Jesus has called us, and we are here.
Yet, when Jesus calls us, he never stops calling us. Following Jesus is not a one-time decision. Following Jesus is an ongoing call to change, to grow, to become saints. So, I guess I want to ask you, as I ask myself, how is it going? As Christians, we see every day as a new day where Christ says: follow me. Sometimes it can be easy to look back, to fall into old habits, or to end up looking like people who don’t follow Christ.
So, where did it start for you? When did you hear the call of Christ, what changes did it cause? For me, I was baptized as an infant, I went to Catholic school till 6th grade, then Heritage High School for Junior and Senior high school. Now, I always went to church, but I don’t think I could say that I saw every day as a chance to hear the call of Christ to follow him. I mean, other than that one hour a week, I effectively lived my life as though God weren’t real, or at least, like God wasn’t a real influence on my life. He just never really entered into my life.
All that changed because my brother-in-law asked me to be his baptism sponsor for the RCIA. As a result, I started going to classes with him about the faith. I really started getting more interested in reading and studying my faith. Even more important, I started a habit of daily prayer. This is when I heard Jesus calling me: follow me. I noticed I had to make some changes in my life. I started going to daily Mass, I started going to confession once a month, I started cleaning up my language, I tried to be more respectful to people around me. All of these changes involved some sacrifice, but all of them made my life better, not worse. Because of all this, I also started hearing the call of Jesus to go to seminary. So, I ended up going to seminary. It has been an adventure ever since. But, we never stop growing, changing, following Jesus.
The people in the gospel weren’t quite ready to let go, they weren’t quite ready to follow Jesus without looking back. But, we should never fear letting go. Following Jesus might mean sacrifice, but he always makes our lives better, not worse. Pope Benedict said something once that really stuck with me. He said, Christ doesn’t ask us to give up anything authentically human. Rather, he asks us to give up sin, which doesn’t belong to us anyway.
Don’t be afraid to follow Christ. Don’t be afraid to let go. Nothing in this world is worth holding on to. Only our faith, our relationship with Christ will bring us salvation. So, what’s holding you back? I’ve been thinking about that question a lot recently in my own prayer life. What’s the next step, where is Jesus leading us? What is holding me back from following Christ? Is it the shows we watch? The music we listen to? The conversations we have? The websites we see? What is it in your life that’s holding you back? St Paul reminds us today: for freedom, Christ set us free, do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. What’s holding us back? We will only hear the answer to this question if we are in dialogue with Jesus. That’s the nice thing, it’s Jesus who will show us the way.
So, do you remember that first time you really heard Jesus’ voice saying: follow me? But, have you listened to that voice recently? Following Christ is an ongoing, daily reality. As we receive Holy Communion today, we open our heart to Jesus and listen to him say: follow me. Don’t be afraid to follow Christ.