June 27, 2017

Reflection for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Christ carrying His Cross
Christ being led to His Crucifixion, Monastery Decani, Deçan, Kosovo.

"Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me."

Our Lord shows us the way to eternal salvation. He tells his apostles "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:37-39) 

It sounds contradictory, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it,” but these are the conditions of discipleship. A man called to the priesthood offers himself completely to God’s Church, just as a husband in marriage gives himself completely, holding nothing back from his wife. A consecrated woman gives herself in total devotion as a bride of Christ, just as a wife gives herself unreservedly in matrimony to her husband. All of these examples are renunciations of the self to love in imitation of Christ.

Venerable Fulton Sheen writes in Life of Christ, "Christ was our ‘stand-in’ on the stage of life. He took our guilt as if He were guilty and thus paid the debt that sin deserved, namely, death. This made possible our resurrection to 'new life' in Him. Christ, therefore, is not just a teacher or a pleasant revolutionist, but our Savior." As his followers, we must be prepared to give all, just as the Savior did for us. This may require us to suffer the white martyrdom of public derision, scorn and ridicule or, perhaps we will be called upon to give our very lives as red martyrs, like our persecuted brothers and sisters in faith in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Jesus understood that many would not accept the message He proclaimed. To follow Jesus, we must be willing to put the Gospel before everything else, including our very lives. Those who refuse to "take up the cross" in obedience to Him are "not worthy" of being his disciples. Jesus Incarnate makes possible and prefigures our ultimate Summum bonum, that is. seeing God face to face and loving Him forever in heaven. We, like the Master, must be prepared to suffer for the Kingdom in proclaiming the Good News. Indeed, Christ said to his disciples (and us), “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.” (John 15:18)

Fr. Kevin O'Sullivan writes, “Today, too, there are still those who are suffering a lingering martyrdom, worse than quick death on the scaffold, because they obey God rather than man. We can help them to persevere, by our prayers. We ourselves, who are free from any overt persecution, must show our gratitude to God for being allowed to practice our religion openly and without fear, by doing just this. We must live according to the convictions of our Christian faith. We are here in this world for a few short years, our real and lasting home is in heaven. We must keep this thought uppermost in our mind in all our doings and dealings.

As well as carrying out our own personal duties, we must remember the spiritual needs of our fellowmen. They, too, need to go to heaven and anything less will be eternal disaster for them. We may not be able to preach, or teach them the truth of the Christian faith, but we can and must help all those who are doing so.” Most loving God, who through the grace of adoption chose us to be children of light, grant, we pray, that we may not be wrapped in the darkness of error but always be seen to stand in the light of truth, through our Lord Jesus Christ.

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