My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
As I was saying, the readings that we have just heard from Sacred Scripture invite us to reflect on our Christian vocation. The demands of our calling to follow Jesus Christ.
In today’s passage of the Gospel Jesus and the disciples begin the final journey to Jerusalem where God’s plan for salvation will be fulfilled.
Their commitment to God’s plan will be tested. And Jesus warned them that he must endure suffering at the hands of his enemies and as he encounters people who want to follow him, he challenges them to complete generosity.
So as I was saying, I think our first reflect is the fact that — just as the apostles — every one of us has a vocation. Jesus is calling each of us just as he called the people in the Gospel today. Follow me.
But sometimes this sounds very difficult, as Jesus himself says in today’s passage of the Gospel:
And another said, “I will follow you Lord
But first let me say farewell to my family at home.”
To him, Jesus said:
“No one who sets a hand to the plow
and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”
So it sounds like something very challenging. And I was thinking about two things that help us to understand that it’s not impossible, obviously, and also help us to see that following Jesus is not just something that we have to do but it is something that we want to do happily.
So two things that can help us:
First, is just to reflect on God’s love for each one of us. And the second one is that it is a personal and free decision to follow Jesus Christ.
So first of all, we need to remember that we are just corresponding to the love of God. And God has shown us his personal love for each one of us in many ways. We have received from him life, faith, redemption, freedom, health, family, friends, and so many other personal blessings.
As we heard in today’s responsorial psalm:
You will show me the path of life
Fullness of joy in your presence
He delights at your right hand forever.
God really loves each one of us, personally. It’s so easy to forget about that or don’t think about it. But I think as we reflect on our call to follow Jesus it’s so important that we also think about how much God loves each one of us personally.
Then the call from God to love him makes more sense because we are just corresponding to his love. And we can do it through the imitation of the life of Christ. You know, these past days I wanted to share with you because it’s been special for me — I’ve been reflecting on the beautiful example of St. Lucy.
She was a martyr of the 4th century. Because just yesterday I had the blessing of having the celebration of the 75th anniversary of St. Lucy’s parish in Long Beach. It was a beautiful celebration — it’s a beautiful, small parish but with all communities there. So it was a beautiful celebration, as I said.
St. Lucy is one of the great figures from the first centuries of Christianity. A holy virgin and martyr. And she has a choice to make. She was accused to be a Christian, and then the authorities said to her that if she would offer sacrifices to the Roman gods, she will be free.
But St. Lucy refused to deny her faith, she refused to deny Jesus. She said these beautiful words, I quote: “The sacrifice that is pleasing to God is to visit the poor and help them in their needs.” And then she continued to say, “And since I have nothing to offer, I offer myself to the Lord.”
So, obviously, they made her suffer. They tortured her and they killed her. She died for the way she lived — just for being a Christian. It’s beautiful. “Since I have nothing to offer, I offer myself to the Lord.”
So St. Lucy shows us how we should live. How we should follow Christ in our homes, in our communities, in our parishes. Those words that St. Lucy said to her persecutors are a beautiful summary of our vocation.
“I offer myself to the Lord.”
This is, my dear brothers and sisters, how we are called to live. All for Jesus. Everyday, in every moment, we need to open to the grace of God, to the presence of God, to the love of God for each one of us. We need to be looking for signs of his love. Listening for his voice, his guidance. We need to offer ourselves to the Lord in joy and with gratitude.
This is how the first Christians lived and this is the first and normal way to correspond to the love of God, and to be able to grow in love to the point of loving God absolutely and unconditionally.
So the first thing: remembering that God loves each one of us personally.
But then, in today’s passage of the Gospel, we can see, in the vocation of the apostles, that Jesus is not forcing them to follow him. Jesus’ invitation is a gentle call to follow him, although the commitment, as we heard, is a demanding one.
St. Paul said, in the second reading of today’s Mass:
For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters.
But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh,
Rather, serve one another through love.
In our society — in modern culture — it’s so difficult for us to really understand what freedom is all about. Freedom is a gift from God, as we know. St. Augustine said some beautiful words: “If we are brought to Christ by force, we believe without wanting to. This is violence, not freedom. We can enter the Church unwillingly. We can approach the altar unwillingly. But we can only believe if we want to.”
So the good understanding of freedom in practicing our faith means that we do things because we want to.
We go to Mass. We respect life from conception to natural death. We try to be honest. We believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. We love our neighbors as ourselves. Not just because we have to, but because we want to.
So first, God loves us personally. And secondly, we are free. Free to believe, thanks be to God.
So freely and willingly we love God and we commit ourselves to the love of God and the love of others. Then we can see that — even if it looks very challenging to be followers of Jesus Christ — it’s possible. And it’s a real source of joy and peace in our life.
So today we ask, again, for the grace to correspond to God’s love and with absolute freedom — the freedom of the children of God — to say yes, to be followers of Jesus Christ, disciples of Jesus Christ.
May Mary, our Blessed Mother, help each one of us understand God’s love for each one of us, and doing it freely. May Mary help us to be faithful followers of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
1. Readings: 1 Kings 19:16b, 19-21; Ps. 16:1-2, 5, 7-11; Gal. 5:1, 13-18; Luke 19:51-62.