From the Deacon’s Desk: Prayer and Inspirational Thoughts
September 4 – Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Choices, choices, choices! You want to follow Jesus! “Hate you father and mother, your wife and children, your brother and sister – even yourself!” Endure your pains and suffering! Leave everything behind! That’s your choice…boy oh boy…sounds like the makings of a great motivational speech doesn’t it? But the truth is, we all are faced with big choices in our lives – times when we have to make decisions that are hard and require sacrifice and pain to achieve what we want. We have to sort through the chaos to find and follow that which is most important to us.
It sounds harsh – what Jesus is demanding. But he is not saying don’t love others. In his time, the people would understand that “to hate” would mean to love others less. He is saying, as much as we might love others, we must love him even more. Completely, totally, and above all else – even our spouse. Jesus wants us to understand and discern the cost of discipleship. Discipleship is an all-consuming vocation. It must be accepted with mature deliberation. Over the last few weeks we have heard repeatedly that it will not be easy to follow Jesus. There will be pain, suffering and sacrifice. It will take effort and persistence. It will bring division from our friends and even our families –because it is counter cultural. And it will take humility – an understanding that all we are and have comes from God – and a willingness to accept and submit to God’s will for us. Today he tells us there are three things we must do to follow him. First, align everything in our lives to him and to God’s will. Second, we must accept and pick up our crosses, our challenges in life just as he accepted the greatest cross of all. Third, we must be willing to give up anything we have for God, recognizing that all we have comes first from Him.
Jesus knows the challenge this will be for us. He knows that if we don’t enter into discipleship with our eyes open we are setting ourselves up for failure. As Christians we cannot fully understand ahead of time what will be required of us. In Christian marriage, religious life and ordained ministry, we commit ourselves to meet requirements we will only learn about later. The same is true of discipleship. Our first reading asks “who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends?” In the same way, we don’t know what Jesus may ask of us today or tomorrow. We don’t know what cross may be given to us, but pain and suffering may be a part of it. Our ability to understand the mind of God is severely limited. We don’t know what the future holds for us or for others. But I know this – whatever the cost, I want my future to hold Jesus in it.
As Vincentians, we see so many who are being overwhelmed by the chaos in their lives. Our ministry calls us to walk with them, helping them to sort through the chaos. Jesus challenges us to turn toward Him to seek His will for them – sorting out the important from the unimportant. He challenges us to be obedient to His will, even when it is not comfortable or convenient, trusting in His Providence and grace. We are called to become one with the poor and vulnerable, making their crosses our crosses, that we might all be joined to the one true cross! It is only through patience, prayer and humility that we are able to continually move forward toward the cross, growing in holiness by discerning and following His will in all circumstances. How do I seek God’s will in all things? How do I accept that which Jesus calls me to, even when it is uncomfortable? Does my love for Jesus transcend all else in my life?
Lord Jesus, give me the courage to seek only your will in my life. Allow me to humbly submit to you, even when I am drawn in other directions. Help me to diminish in my own desires that I might increase in my complete love for you. Give me the grace and humility to set myself to the side so that I might be your disciple in all things. We pray all of this in your name. Amen