Brothers and sisters in Christ: During today’s Reading of the Gospel of Mark, we heard Jesus calling the first Apostles, Simon, Andrew, James, the son of Zebedee and his brother John. Each one of them left what they were doing to answer the call to a life of self-denial and ongoing sacrifices. By answering their calling, they became faithful servants of the Lord, their names going down in history so we will remember and model after their example, their living faith in Christ.
Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” Fishers of men are ambassadors of Christ. They represent Christ. Christians, through their Baptism, are called to be lights in the world. They are called to go forward and to evangelize the world as Jonah, as Paul, as all the disciples of the Lord, some even to death. They are called to evangelize, their family members, their friends, their co-workers, strangers, all of those with who they come in contact with during their lives.
We all have a calling to answer. Some are called to the Sacrament of Holy Orders or religious life. Some are called to the Sacrament of Marriage There is a place for everybody in the Body of Christ.
Each member of the Body of Christ is a living stone that belongs to a great Temple, the House of God. If we remove some of the stones from the structure, it will begin to fall. Equally, if all the members of the Body of Christ, of the Parish, do not become actively involved in the evangelization ministry of the Church, the Parish will suffer. The Church cannot flourish by itself. It needs people! It needs you!
To lead His Church Jesus chose normal men and women. He did not choose angels. No one is perfect in their calling. All have to learn as they grow in Christ.
Are you a follower of Christ or just an admirer of Christ? This distinction between followers of Christ and mere admirers of Our Savior is explained in a recently published book by Rod Dreher entitled, Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents. He tells the story of an artist who is painting images of Bible stories on the wall of the village church. The artist laments his own inability to paint a true representation of Christ. He says that his paintings comfort believers, but do not lead them to repentance and conversion. The painter says regretfully, “We create admirers. We do not create followers.”
Dreher traces this distinction between admirers of Jesus and followers of Jesus.
The admirer never makes any true sacrifices. He always plays it safe. Though in words, phrases, songs, he is inexhaustible about how highly he prizes Christ, he renounces nothing, he will not reconstruct his life, and will not let his life express what it is he supposedly admires. Not so for the follower. The follower aspires with all his strength to practice what he admires.
In other words, as Dreher puts it, “Admirers love being associated with Jesus, but when trouble comes, they either turn on him or in some way try to put distance between themselves and the Lord. The admirer wants the comfort and advantage that comes with being a Christian, but when times change and Jesus becomes a scandal or worse, the admirer folds. . . . The follower recognizes the cost of discipleship and is willing to pay it.”
The mission of the Roman Catholic is to build a fervent community of intentional and dedicated disciples of the Risen Lord and steadfast stewards of God’s creation who seek to become saints. Accordingly, the community of the faithful is committed to the discipleship and stewardship way of life as commanded by Christ and as revealed by Sacred Scripture and Tradition.” Disciples are those who ‘make a conscious, firm decision, carried out in action, to be followers of Jesus Christ no matter the cost to themselves.’ Discipleship refers to a committed approach to living a Christian life within the Catholic Church.”
Because we are adopted as sons and daughters of God, we are also beloved by God, we are His family. As Jesus loves His Father, we are called to love God.
I have heard some Christians congratulate themselves on being good Christians because they have not murdered anyone or robbed a bank. Murder and robbery involve a couple of very important commandments, but there are eight more commandments in the Decalogue besides those two. The Third Commandment, for example, says “to keep holy the Sabbath.” For Catholics, that means to go to Mass every Sunday. Does a person really love God if he or she goes to Mass only when it is convenient? Is such a person a follower of Jesus, or just an admirer?
Here is a test of discipleship. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave us this commandment:
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.
As children of our heavenly Father, we are commanded to love our enemies. Indeed, this remarkable teaching is what distinguished the first Christians and set Christianity apart from every other religion. If followers of Christ loved their enemies, this love would be contagious, and people would be inspired to become Christians. Unfortunately, many people who call themselves Christians do not live by this fundamental commandment. As G.K. Chesterton said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”
Are you a follower of Christ or just an admirer of Christ?
If you think that you are a true follower of Christ, I pose this question to you:
If you voted for Joe Biden, can you say that you love Donald Trump and his supporters?
If you voted for Donald Trump, can you say that you love Joe Biden and his supporters?
These questions make people uncomfortable because we tend to equate love with a warm feeling of affection. Loving someone does not mean, that you agree with them or even like them. Love involves something much more profound. Saint Thomas Aquinas said it well: “to love is to will the good of the other.” We do this in what we do and what we say!
Even if you do not have warm feelings of affection for your enemies, you can still pray for and seek the good for that person. In politics, rather than seeking the destruction of your opponents, people with different views should earnestly strive for the good of their adversaries through reason and persuasion, not through violence.
The country has been rocked by violence over the last several months and during this past week. As a nation, we have strayed far from the Judeo-Christian roots of our founders. The first amendment of the United States Constitution protects “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” We need to reemphasize the word “peaceably” in exercising that right.
As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, preparing ourselves to participate in the great Feast of the Holy Eucharist in the Presence of the Lord Jesus, let each of us ask the Lord Jesus to bless our Parish with an abundance of active members to do His holy work. Let us ask Jesus for priestly vocations. Let us ask Jesus to strengthen us in our works so that we may shine as true lights in the world, showing patience where it is needed, love where there is hatred, kindness where it is least expected. And finally, let each one of us pray for those who have fallen to sin, that they may once more rise and take their place as fruitful and obedient servants of the Lord.
A few weeks ago, we celebrated the birth of Our Savior, whose coming was foretold by the prophet Isaiah. If we want to live in a peaceful world, we must be true followers of the Prince of Peace, not just admirers from a distance. We must love one another, even our enemies, for God has written a law upon our hearts (cf. Jeremiah 13:33), which is fulfilled in love (Romans 13:8-10), hence, the Law of the Heart is Love, who comes to us now in this Eucharist.
May God give us this grace.