Sunday, March 19, 2023

Seeing with our hearts through the light of Christ - Homily for 4th Sunday of Lent, Cycle A

        Today is the Fourth Sunday of Lent, known as Laetare Sunday.   We are halfway through Lent. Fr. Dan and I are wearing Rose vestments to reflect the joy as we look to the coming of Easter.

We have been on a journey of faith practicing prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to grow closer to our relationship with Jesus as our Savior. Those preparing to enter the Church, the Catechumens, and Candidates, have been on a journey learning about the Catholic Faith and their belief in Jesus as Lord on their way to becoming Catholic at the Easter Vigil. Where are we at on our Lenten Journey?   Have our eyes of our faith been opened to how Jesus calls us to live as his disciples?  Not as man sees, but as God sees?  Have we become blinded by the ways of our culture?

In today’s Gospel, we hear the story of the healing of the Man born blind.  The story has many characters: the disciples, the blind man, his parents, and the Pharisees.  The disciples ask: Whose sin cause the man’s blindness, his or the parents?  Their cultural understanding

was that God’s punishment for sin was the cause of blindness, but this is not so.  Jesus tells them man’s blindness was so the works of God could be visible through him. Jesus places a mix of clay and saliva on the blind man’s eyes and sends him to the pool of Siloam to wash– kind of like a baptism of faith in Jesus

The man was questioned about how he was cured and grew in his faith as he gave his answers. His responses were “A man called Jesus”, “A prophet”, “If he were not from God he could not do anything” and finally He calls him Lord, and worshipped him.   He grew in Spiritual sight, finally seeing Jesus as the light of Salvation.  He did so initially stating the facts: he put clay on my eyes and now I can see.  He then grew in courage challenging the Pharisees and asking if they wanted to be his disciples.

The Pharisees questioned him about how the cure came about and there was a division among them. Some thought that Jesus could not be from God since he was cured on the Sabbath, but others doubted that a sinful man perform such a sign.  The majority then concluded he must be a sinner.  And finally, they threw out the man because, “He was totally born in sin, and was trying to teach them.  They started out partially blind and increased to total Spiritual blindness.  They were unwilling to accept Jesus as the curing of a blind man.  

We heard in the first reading that “man does not see as God sees, because man sees the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart”. Samuel was directed by God to choose the least in the eyes of the world, the youngest of Jesse’s sons to be Israel’s king, because David had the heart of a servant king. The Pharisees could only see through their cultural lens: Jesus was violating a law by “working on the Sabbath”.    But they could not see with their hearts that Jesus was doing something more than restoring sight: He was restoring the man to his community of worship.   They thought illness and disability were due to sinfulness, so the blind man was excluded from the community.   Even though he was healed of his blindness, the Pharisees still thought he was a sinner and expelled him from the community.  Their hearts were blind to the ways of God.

During the last few weeks of Lent, we have an opportunity to work on seeing with the eyes of God rather than as Man sees through our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  Most of us have been washed in the waters of Baptism, and have received the grace to help us see by the Light of Christ. At our baptism, we were given a baptismal candle, lit with the Easter candle, and told to “receive the light of Christ.” The Catechumens will soon experience this at the Easter Vigil.  When we see injustices in the world, think of the light of Christ, to move your heart to see with His eyes.

One of our Lenten practices, almsgiving, is a way to help us see with the eyes of God.  This year our parish Lenten almsgiving to help with homelessness in our community through No Place to Call Home.  We may be blind to homelessness in our community because we're not like downtown Indianapolis where you see people begging out on the streets or in homeless camps under bridges. Many of the homeless are couch surfing, which is staying with friends or relatives, till their welcome is worn out.  Others are sleeping in cars, parks, or abandoned buildings. There are many reasons why people are homeless, but one of the main ones is domestic violence, as well as mental and physical illness, and changes in the family due to dynamics such as death and divorce. Only a small amount is due to substance abuse.  Our culture portrays persons who are homeless as those who don’t want to work.  Most people affected by homelessness have jobs or income from retirement or disability. They just don’t make enough to money to afford stable housing.        

No Place to Call Home helps people to get out of homelessness by agreeing to receive case management for 3 months.  They help to identify partner agencies with case managers in the county to help based on the specific situation of the homeless families.  This helps the people identify the causes of their homelessness and then sets goals to find stable affordable housing.   One of the stories shared at the presentation last week was told by a man named Sam.  He and his wife were in stable housing living off their combined social security retirement income.  When she died, he lost her income and was not able to afford the rent and wound up living in his car.   A local police officer, found him sleeping in his car and was able to find help through No Place to Call home.   This is not the typical case we think of when it comes to homelessness in our community, and there are many others like it.

When our hearts eyes are illuminated by the light of Christ, rather than the culture, we can be moved with compassion to be generous in our Lenten almsgiving. May our Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving help each of our hearts grow to see as Christ does.

To listen to this homily search for "Deacon Ron's Ramblings" on your favorite podcast site. 


Sunday, February 12, 2023

Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A - Making you heart a home for God to dwell in

         Our opening prayer today called for us to become dwellings that are pleasing to God by His abiding in our heart. A dwelling is a place to live-in, a house. We can see houses going up everywhere in our community. There are many new houses that are shiny and look good from the outside. But what makes a house a home is not what’s on the outside, but what’s inside. It’s the environment within, the heart of the home, that makes it inviting and pleasant to be there. If we are to become a dwelling that pleases God, how do we make it ready to welcome God and others to dwell in? Our readings today point to ways we our hearts a home to welcome God to dwell in. 

The first reading from Sirach reminds us that we can choose to keep the commandments. Through God’s wisdom he provides the commandments that are life giving. They provide boundaries to give us the fullness of life so we can be in good relationship with God and our neighbor.   God gives us the freedom to choose life or death, good or evil.  He does not make us follow the commandments nor cause us to break them.   If we choose not to follow the commandments, sin enters our lives, which damages the relationship with God and others.  Our choice to sin may bring about some temporary satisfaction, but in the long term it results in feelings of emptiness, loneliness, and despair. It’s not what God wants for us, but he gives us the freedom to choose for ourselves.

In today’s Gospel Jesus continues his Sermon on the Mount discourse that we’ve heard the past couple of weeks.  His preaching is bold and with authority proclaiming

he has not come to abolish the law or the prophets, but to fulfill it. Jesus tells the crowds that their righteousness must surpass that of the Scribes and Pharisees. They were viewed as models in the community in keeping the law, but were only concerned with keeping the externals of the law and not embracing an internal change in their hearts.  How could those listening possibly surpass the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees?  By having a heart transplant.  Not a physical heart but a wholehearted change in the way they lived.   

Jesus goes on to teach on the commandants to not kill, commit adultery, and bear false witness, but he takes is a step further. Jesus with authority he states, “Amen, I say to you”, or “but I say” and teaches them how to change their hearts so they won’t break the commandments.  He gives them a new way they living with authority because HE IS GOD. Jesus wants them to understand that anger, lust, and deceit results in sin that damage the relationships with God and their neighbor.  Broken relationships cause pain, sorrow, and resentment which disturbs their peace.  Jesus is teaching his disciples to make a wholehearted transformation so they maintain loving relationships with each other and God to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven.    

This sounds like a tall task to accomplish on our own, but St. Paul tells us how it’s through help of the Spirit.   The Holy Spirit we receive in Baptism and Confirmation provides the grace for us to become dwellings pleasing to God.   The grace of the sacraments reveals God’s wisdom and makes it possible to change our hearts to be life giving to others.  

How can we become and continue to be a dwelling that is pleasing to God?  By asking ourselves if we are welcoming place for Jesus to dwell when we receive him in the Eucharist.   We can do this by making it a habit to examine ourselves to make sure the hearts of our home are in order to welcome him.   The Holy Spirit is our guide to examine our own dwelling to make sure it’s is ready for Jesus to enter. We may say we have not killed someone, but is there a broken relationship with a family or friend that needs mending?   We may not have committed adultery, but do we view others with pure hearts rather than for our own pleasure?  We can say we haven’t be deceitful, but have we been fully honest with others and treated them as we would like?  

If we find rooms in our homes that need cleaning, we can ask for God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Confession to restore our dwelling to make it pleasing to God.  As we proceed to receive the Eucharist, the Holy Spirit will come down to change the bread and wine into Christ’s Body and Blood to provide us the graces we need to change our hearts. Let’s invite that same Spirit to guide our hearts so we can become dwellings that are pleasing to God. 

Monday, January 30, 2023

Living out the beatitudes by giving yourself in love to bring happiness to others - Homily Fourth Sunday Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we are now in the last weekend in January. ‌This is the time of year when many of us have made resolutions in the new year for positive changes in our lives. Some of the most popular resolutions are to get in better physical shape or to lose weight.  The gyms are usually packed the first few weeks, but usually about this time the crowds start to thin out as the fervor in keeping those resolutions starts to wane.
Why do we make these resolutions?  We do so to feel better about ourselves by making positive changes in our lives. We may do things to improve our overall health, like exercising or eating healthier food. We might want to find better job to make more income, to have less stress, or to have more personal time for ourselves and family. We might desire to improve relationships with our spouse, friends, or children. The overall goal is to improve our sense of well-being to make us happy.  While our own happiness is good, if we really want to be happy, we can do so by giving of ourselves with love.  In the Beatitudes Jesus shows us a way of living that not only brings us happiness, but also to others through the love we share with them which can bring lasting joy.

Over the past few weeks, we have hearing about Jesus public ministry.  Two weeks ago, Jesus was Baptized by John the Baptist, who testified that Jesus is Lamb of God and the Son of God.  Last week we heard about Jesus’ preaching to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” and Andrew, James, and John being call by Jesus to follow to become fishers of men. This week Jesus teaches his disciples of how they are to live as his disciples through the beatitudes.

The word beatitude means being happy, not in the sense of an emotional state, but that of

good fortune.  In living the beatitudes, the disciples learn they will have the good fortune of being comforted, receive mercy, inherit lands, and being satisfied. The blessings get even better as they will see God, be called God’s children, and the God’s kingdom will be theirs. This was incredible news for the disciples as they had been anticipating the Messiah’s coming.  The Messiah they thought would come would be one of power to overthrow the Roman occupiers.  But Jesus’ teaching announced that God’s kingdom would be come to those who were considered least in the world through mercy and love.

God’s ways are much different than that the world the disciples lived in.  Their occupying Romans of their world valued those who are strong, powerful, and self-sufficient. The blessed in God’s Kingdom are those who were poor in spirit placing their total trust in God and are humble, meek, and mournful. The clean of heart, peacemakers, and righteous are the ones who would also receive his blessing. He was teaching them what God values most, which was very different from world powers of domination, and brute force.
In Jesus’ teaching on the beatitudes, he speaks of the blessings in both the present and future. Some of the blessings will be realized in this world through love and mercy his disciples bring to others living out the beatitudes. But others will come to those later in eternal life with God. In living out the beatitudes we are striving to bring about the blessings of God’s Kingdom in this world as his disciples and hoping to receive them as well in eternal life.
Our world of today is not much different from the time of Jesus. We can make a difference in our world that is so much in need of love and mercy by living out the beatitudes, How are we to live out the beatitudes in our own lives? We can be poor in spirit by placing our total trust in God each day through a relationship in prayer thanking God for our good fortune and asking for his help in our trials.  We can mourn for the sins we have committed against God and others each day by coming to God in prayer asking for forgiveness. We can be meek by restraining from anger when someone cuts us off on the drive to work, and instead just letting it go and praying for the person who cut us off. We can hunger and thirst for righteousness by refusing to gossip and asking others not to do so. We can be merciful by praying for the strength to forgive someone who has hurt us in the past and being open to the possibility of reconciliation. We can be clean of heart by asking God for the help to rid us of garbage in our heart and mind that separates us from God.  We can be peacemakers by deciding to let go of always being the one who is right to foster peace and harmony in our family, work, or at school.
So, if your new year’s resolutions are not working out as planned, consider making the Beatitudes one your new resolutions for the year. This may be the perfect time to do so with Lent coming up. Pick out one of the beatitudes each week and work on trying to practice it throughout the week. Keep in mind that you are practicing and not being perfect. If you fail, take it to God in prayer, asking for help to do better in the coming week.  In doing so you’ll also be practicing the first beatitude, being poor in spirit.  And remember, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the kingdom of God.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Advent, 4th Sunday, Cycle A - Joseph's faith and yes to God


Today is the fourth Sunday of Advent.  Christmas is just one week away. I suspect that many of us are still busy preparing for the Christmas holidays with family and friends.  There are gifts to buy. Cards and presents to send. Food to prepare and parties to attend. On top of all this activity, we may have worries and concerns about rising costs, health issues, and keeping peace within our families during the holidays. All this activity, worry, and concern can give us stress and anxiety.


With so much going we’re distracted from what’s most important, that very soon we will celebrate God coming among us as a tiny little baby. Taking some quiet time in prayer to be with and listen to God can help bring some peace amid our worldly cares. Saint Joseph faced some of the same struggles that we do and is a good model for us in listening to and having faith in God. 


In today’s readings we have of two contrasts faith, Ahaz and Joseph. In the first reading we hear God speaking to Ahaz, a king of Israel.  Ahaz had secured a political alliance with the Assyrians to protect Israel. In doing so he had to construct altars dedicated to the Assyrian gods in Jerusalem’s Holy Temple. This was the most sacred place of the Jewish people, now compromised by Ahaz actions. The Lord asked Ahaz to request a sign from God so he would have faith in him. But Ahaz refused to do so, as he put this faith in the political alliance with Assyria. Ahaz put his faith in the powers of the world rather than God. The prophet Isaiah revealed the sign to Ahaz, a virgin would conceive and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel, which meant God with us. This prophecy would be fulfilled 700 years later with the birth of Jesus.


          Joseph was struggling with his own worldly concerns. He and Mary were in their first stage of marriage but did not yet live together. He had come to learn that Mary was pregnant, which caused great concern.  If she had unfaithful, she could be subject to being to death under Jewish law.Joseph had another option he could exercise in the case of infidelity, which was to quietly divorce Mary.

          Joseph must have been distressed with the news of Mary’s pregnancy. Being a righteous men Joseph was open to listening to God, even in his

dreams.  He received his answer that it was by power of God, through the Holy Spirit, that Mary conceived the child. By his courage and faith in God, Joseph was able to understand how Mary’s pregnancy came about and could now to take her into his home.  Not one word was spoken by Joseph in any of the Gospels. His faith in God, rather than the world, spoke much louder than any words could do.

Some key passages in Matthew’s Gospel indicate how Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled. With the angel referring to Joseph as a Son of David, it links the lineage of Messiah as a descendent of King David’s. In asking Joseph to name the child Jesus, it clearly established his role as his father in the Jewish tradition.

Jesus’ name means God saves. God freely chose to come into the world as a tiny little baby just like each of us. He comes as Emmanuel, which means “God with us”, to save us from our sins. He has a human mother, Mary, who answered yes to God to divinely conceive God’s Son. He has a human stepfather, Joseph, who said yes to take Mary as his wife and care for him as his own son. Jesus became one with us to experience the joys and triumphs, pains, and sufferings, so we could personally come know God and have faith in him as our savior.


          This final week of Advent let’s take some time away from our worldly cares to be with God. Saint Joseph did so and got the answer he needed to say yes to his faith in God. I’d like to suggest a quiet way to pray and be with Jesus in his humblest humanity as a tiny infant. Find a quiet place and close your eyes and think about the first time you held your own child, grandchild, or a child of a family member or friend. Think of how much joy this precious little baby child brought to you,  

asleep in your arms totally dependent on you. Rest in the peace of this memory and then place the child in a crib. Now imagine Mary joyfully coming to you to give her own infant son Jesus to hold. Now just rest a while holding the infant Jesus and reflecting how grateful you are for his coming into the world like one of us. After a time give him back to Joseph and Mary thanking them for their faith in God and asking for their prayers for your faith in God to be as strong as theirs.




Monday, November 21, 2022

Our Servant King who saves us - Homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King, cycle C

      Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. We are at the end of the Church year and start next Sunday with Advent. We’ve been on a journey with Jesus since the summer following him from Galilee to Jerusalem.  Along the way Jesus has taught us about the virtues of charity, mercy, and humility through the parables of the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, and the Pharisee and tax collector are a few that we heard.  We’ve learned of Jesus’ encounter with people and how he changed their lives such as the tree climbing Zacchaeus who Jesus came to dine with.  We heard of Jesus’ miracles in curing the man withered hand, healing the woman who touched his garment, and raising the only son of the widow from Nain, revealing his divine powers. Today we find Jesus at his final destination in Jerusalem: The Cross, where He shows us the type of king he is. A servant who offers his life to redeem us.                      

        In this closing scene of the crucifixion we hear the rulers, soldiers, and criminals sneering, jeering, and reviling him. They ridicule him with a sign above cross for the crime he

was crucified: “This is the King of the Jews.”  The soldiers and criminal mock his kingship asking, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself”.   They had no idea what kind of King he was. Jesus didn’t come to Jerusalem to save himself, he came to save us.    Jesus leads by sacrificing himself for the sake of his flock, each one of us, and even those who mock and despise him. 

In his most vulnerable state dying on the cross Jesus exercises his Kingship in showing mercy to the repentant thief, who repents for his crimes, “we have been condemned justly”.  In faith he trusts Jesus asking him, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  Jesus exercises his power granting him mercy, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise”.  

In today’s opening prayer we heard, “Almighty ever-living God, whose will is to restore all things in your beloved Son, the King of the universe, grant, we pray, that the whole creation, set free from slavery, may render your majesty service, and ceaselessly proclaim your praise.”   What is the slavery we are set free from? The evil of sin, which brought death into the world by the devil. Jesus conquers the kingdom of the world by his saving death. He wants us to have eternal life in his everlasting Kingdom. We just need to ask for his mercy.

When I think of how evil of sin is overcome by following Christ the King in showing love and Mercy, Saint John Paul II comes to mind. Many of us recall Saint John Paul II as he was lived during our lifetimes. One of the main evils during his reign as Pope was the Soviet Union and communism throughout the eastern Europe.   The threat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union weighed heavy on many of us during this time. Pope John Paul was instrumental in the efforts that eventually led to the breakup of the Soviet Union. He did role was not by political power, but spiritual.   The spark that started the breakup was his first pilgrimage to Poland in 1979. He addressed the Polish people reminding them of who they were, children of God, created with dignity and a responsibility, and that they were meant to be free in him.  He said that in resisting communism they had to do so responsibly, peacefully and overcoming evil with good. The Soviet Union eventually collapsed 13 years after this visit. I never thought that would be a reality in my lifetime. Another image etched in my mind is the meeting of Saint John Paul II to forgive his would-be assassin, sitting together in intimate conversation two years after the incident.  Saint John Paul II was unafraid of the vulnerability created by living in forgiveness, of sitting in total love with the enemy.  He truly followed the model of Christ, the Servant King ruling with mercy and love.

When we come together each week to receive the Eucharist we receive a foretaste of God’s kingdom where, we are set free.   At each Mass Christ’s sacrifice on the altar is re-presented to us.  The Eucharist brings us together to worship our King and recall his gift of mercy to enter into his glorious kingdom.   What kind of kingdom will it be?   A kingdom of truth and life.  A kingdom of holiness and grace.  A kingdom of justice, love, and peace.  

As we now participate in Christ’s Kingdom now through the Eucharist, let’s thank him.   Let’s pray that the grace we’ll receive helps to make his Kingdom present in the world by showing our love to God and our neighbor.

We’ll be doing this Sunday afternoon by sharing all the food we’ve given to our neighbors at our Thanksgiving food distribution. I’m sure there are many other ways that each of us makes Christ’s kingdom present in the world showing love and mercy, empowered by the Eucharist. In doing so we hope that others will be attracted to join us as loyal subjects serving in Christ’s kingdom.


Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Pray with the heart of a tax collector, Homily 30th Sunday Ordinary Time, cycle C

   This week’s Gospel focuses where our heart needs to be when we pray to God, and our dependence on God. We have two very contrasting figures, a Pharisee and a tax collector.  The Pharisees were the religious leaders at the time of Jesus.  They went to great lengths abiding by the Jewish law, going above and beyond what was called for.  They were revered in the community for their religious piety. The tax collector was a Jew who worked for the occupying Romans.   He made his money from his fellow Jews by collecting above the required taxes for the Romans.   Tax collectors were despised by the Jews as they were considered traitors.  Pharisee and tax collectors were viewed as complete opposites in the culture, the righteous versus sinner. 

    Their prayers were quite different as well, but not what the culture expected. The Pharisee’s prayer was to himself, citing his accomplishments in following the law and not being like others

who were sinful like the tax collector.  He was justifying himself based on His own actions and did not seem to have a need for God.  His heart was closed in on himself and had little mercy for others. The tax collector was far off with his eyes cast down and beat his breast praying: “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner”.   He was humbly requesting for God’s mercy in his poverty of spirit, aware of his sinfulness and his need for God’s mercy. The tax collector depended on God and the Pharisee depended on himself. Jesus tells us that the tax collector was the one who went away justified. This is exactly the opposite of what the Jewish culture perceived. God’s ways are not our ways.

We all need God no matter what our state is in the world, because we are all poor sinners, and need God’s mercy. If we humbly approach God in our poverty with a contrite heart humbly admitting our sins, our prayers are powerful. As we heard in Sirach,  “The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds;  it does not rest till it reaches its goal,  nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds.” Approaching God with humility is where our heart should be when we come to God in prayer.  

        The Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to the tax collector as the model of righteous and pure prayer.  I’ve recently added this prayer to my own prayer at the end of the day. I begin with an examination of conscience of how the day went and recall the events of the day where I failed, and realize I may forget or not recognize somethings I did as being sinful. And sometimes I just too tired to a good examination as surrender with the prayer: “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner”.

Each time we come to Mass we are given the opportunity to come humbly before God to admit our sin.  After we pray sign of the cross and the priest greets us, he then calls us to acknowledge our sinfulness and need for God’s forgiveness, Before we come to Mass it’s a good idea reflect on when we have not been loving to God and our neighbor. Where we failed to with our family, friends, work or school, or in our own relationship with Christ, during the week:  What were the  things we thought about, acts we committed, or things we failed to do that were not loving?When we recall our sins we confessing what has gone on throughout the week that has hurt our relationship with God. Part of what we’re experiencing in the Mass is a sacrifice The Mass requires the priest purifies his hands, as any priest would in the Old Testament before a sacrifice. When we confess our sins at the start of Mass we perform a similar action to cleans our hearts before receiving the Eucharist. This act forgives our venial sin in our lives, which weakens our relationship with Christ. If we have mortal sin, which is a serious sin that breaks our relationship with God, we need go to confession to be forgiven, before receiving communion. As Communion we are fed with Christ’s, Body and Blood which provides us the grace we need to love and overcome sin. Isn’t it beautiful that at every Mass we can ask for and receive God’s to deal with the sin in our life?        

We need God and His tender mercy. We can’t do it alone. So when we pray have a humble heart like the tax collector remembering that the prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds for God to grant us His mercy.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Are you a fan or following? Twenty Third Sunday, cycle C

     Who here has every binged watched a TV series? If you are not familiar with the term, it has to do with watching multiple episodes of a TV series in one sitting. My wife and I have been binge watching a series called the Chosen. It’s about the life of Jesus and the call of his disciples to follow Him. The one thing I like about the series is that it really brings to life the character of the disciples and their struggles they had in following Jesus. They try and do their best, and fail many times, but Jesus keeps welcoming them to follow him. If you have not watched the series I’d encourage you to check it out.     

    The are several scenes from the Chosen that remind me of today’s Gospel where Jesus is

surrounded by a large crowd so they can witness Jesus perform miracles.   I would call these crowds fans of Jesus, and not really his disciples. Being a fan is easy and can be an escape from our daily routine. You can go to a show, concert, or game to be in the crowd to cheer on your favorite celebrity, music group, or team and then go home and then get back to your daily routine.   You don’t need to make a change in your life, to be a fan..

Being a true follower, a disciple, is hard as it comes at a cost. It requires a commitment that requires hard work on a daily basis. I think Jesus wanted to challenge the crowds to see if they were ready to accept the call to follow his way as a disciple.

Jesus challenged them with three conditions to be His disciple. The first sounds quite harsh, hating your family and even your own life. In the Hebrew culture of the time the word hate had a different meaning than it does today.  Hate meant to give lesser priority. So Jesus is requiring to put family relationships and even their own lives, behind him. By having a relationship Jesus as first priority our family relationship and lives will be richer.

The second condition is to be willing to suffer for Jesus, by carrying your own cross. How can we do this? By being willing to live as a Christian witness in the world. It may be a doctor, nurse, or other health care worker refusing to participate in procedures related to abortion, sterilization, or assisted suicide, at risk loss of their jobs. It could be standing up for racial justice or non-violence with co-workers during your conversations at lunch, were you might be ridiculed. It may be giving up a Saturday morning once a month to volunteer at a food pantry instead of going to the gym.

If we live as a Christian in the world we will suffer, but we will gain in peace of the hope of eternal life promised by Jesus. The third condition to follow Jesus is to renounce all your possessions. This sounds extremely difficult as we need certain things to live: our home, cars, and money to buy food and medical care.  Do we really need to give all of those up all in order to be a disciple of Jesus? Maybe a few who join religious communities that make a vow of poverty to follow Jesus. May need to do that. But most of us still need some of those possessions in order to live our lives. Jesus is asking us to surrender from those possessions from possessing us, and being satisfied with just enough to sustain our lives.

About twenty years ago I was more of a fan than a follower of Jesus.  I would come to Mass almost every Sunday, but it just one of the activities in my busy life. My top priority was my job so I could make a lot of money to buy all the latest things and engage in experiences for me and my family.

But I had no peace in my life, because I was always striving for more, and I had little time for a relationship with Jesus. A friend from Church invited me to attend a Welcome retreat, but I had little interest as cost me time from my job and family. I reluctantly went on the retreat and it opened me up to listen to the Jesus and to follow as his disciple  After the retreat I made Jesus first priority in my life and found that peace that was lacking. I began a daily relationship with Jesus in prayer and trying to follow his way of being His disciple.    I dedicated time to serving others going on a parish mission trips to Appalachia and serving at Saint Vincent DePaul. I eventually left my job and found one that more compatible with being a disciple of Jesus. This eventually led me to be open to the call to serve in the diaconate. I was no longer just a fan of Jesus, I was dedicated to being a follower as his disciple.

In choosing to be a disciple of Jesus it requires assess the cost of doing so, just like the person who calculated the cost to build the tower in the Gospel in order to finish the job I’ve had to reassess my own life over the years to make sure I’m keeping Jesus first priority in my life  It’s not just a one-time decision to follow Jesus as his disciple. I’ve had to make some adjustments multiple times over the years to keep Jesus first in my life.   

If we want to be more than just a fan of Jesus, we can ask for God’s wisdom in prayer to help in listening of how to keep Jesus as top priority so we can live more intentionally as his disciples.   We might be called to do something new in our lives that may come at a cost.  It might be to volunteer our time in such as serving in ministry as a youth catechist or helping feed the hungry in the food pantry. It may be a call to be more loving to our spouse, to more fully live out our vocation of Christian marriage It may require us to be open to consider a call to the diaconate, priesthood, or serving in a religious community. It may be to have the courage to be a more Christian witness to defending the poor and social justice with those you work or go to school.  All these examples may come at a cost, but will give us a greater sense of peace in having Jesus first priority in living as His disciples.