Wednesday, 26th Week OT A
Memorial of Saint Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church
Today’s gospel reading is very challenging. Jesus is asking each of us if we are we ready to follow him wherever he may lead us, regardless of what we may need to leave behind in order to do so. The challenge is to understand and embrace the fact that a true disciple of Christ’s must die to himself in order to live for Christ.
We must come to understand that our lives are not our own, that we belong to Christ and that we must concern ourselves with doing his work, rather than following the mandates of our culture, stressing out over politics, clinging to our material possessions, our professional status, our sensual pleasures, and our sinful tendencies. Our need to die to ourselves so that we can live for Christ is one of the fundamental truths of Christianity.
When a would-be disciple approached Jesus and said he was ready to follow, Jesus told him it would require sacrifice. Jesus appealed to the hearts of those who said they wanted to follow him and told them to detach themselves from whatever might hold them back.
Spiritual detachment is a necessary step for following the Lord. It frees us to give ourselves without reserve to the Lord and his service. While many of us may not be called to give up the comfort of our own home and bed to follow Jesus, we, nonetheless, must be willing to let go of anything that might stand in the way of giving our hearts over to doing God’s will.
One of the would-be disciples in today’s gospel said he would follow Jesus as soon as he had buried his father. What he most likely meant by this was that he felt the need to return to his home to take care of his father through old age until he died. After he had taken care of his family business, he would then be free to follow Christ.
This reminds me of those who have fallen away from the Church and tell me that they plan to go back to church once they have resolved the problems in their lives. Once this is done, they claim, they will then have time for God. They fail to see that they have things backwards. That only with God’s help, only by putting him first in their lives, will they be able to deal with the specific challenges they face with love and grace.
How about the example of a plowman in today’s gospel? What does that have to do with our spiritual journey? A plowman who looked back while plowing his field caused the furrow he cut into the soil to become crooked. One crooked line easily leads to another until the whole field is a mess. The plowman had to look straight ahead in order to keep the plow from going off course.
Likewise, if we look back on what we have left behind to follow the Lord – whether that be a distraction, an attachment, or a sinful habit that keeps us from doing God’s will – our path will likely diverge and we’ll miss what God has planned for us.
There is nothing greater we can do with our lives than to place them at the service of the Lord and Master of the universe. Jesus promises that those who are willing to part with what is most dear to them for his sake “will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29). The Lord Jesus offers us a kingdom of lasting peace, unending joy, surpassing love, enduring friendship, and abundant life.
Is there anything holding us back from pursuing the Lord and discovering his will for our lives? If so, acknowledge it and pray for the grace to put it where it belongs…behind us, where it will no longer be a distraction or an obstacle to following the Lord with all of our heart, all of our soul and all of our mind.