13th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Scripture Readings
Food For Thought
*excerpt from Take Time For Him: Remain In His Love
Meditation Reflection: Luke 9:51-62
Being a Christian means following Christ, wherever and whenever He goes. Full discipleship requires 100% commitment, not the made-to-order or pick and choose buffet we are accustomed to in our culture. Consider Jesus’ own example. He had to journey to Jerusalem and to sacrificial suffering. Notice the attitude He chose – resolution and determination.
Followers of Christ need the same resolution and determination. St. Teresa of Avila, the great Spanish mystic, emphasized repeatedly the necessity of determination to advance in the spiritual life. In her instructional work The Way of Perfection, she warned against our tendency to draw back and complain when things become difficult:
“Be determined, Sisters, that you came to die for Christ, not to live comfortably for Christ.”[i]
Saint Paul also exhorted the Corinthians to live their faith with bold resolution. He warned against conditional discipleship and encouraged the Christian community to be generous and steadfast:
“The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-7
As Jesus journeyed doing the Father’s will, those He encountered each had an opportunity to join Him, but their conditional stipulations determined whether they would accept it or turn it down. The Samaritans received messengers from Christ but rejected the Lord before He even arrived when they learned accepting Christ meant surrendering their bitterness toward Jerusalem. The next person took the initiative to seek Jesus out and requested to be in His company. However Jesus, who knows the hearts of each one of us, also knew the man’s interior conditions for discipleship. Thus, Jesus cautioned him that He would provide spiritual security and comfort but not necessarily the feeling of physical security and comfort.
The next two men Jesus invited to follow Him procrastinated and avoided discipleship by requesting to finish up their other work first. Their requests seem valid and even noble. In fact, burying the dead is a corporal work of mercy and honoring your father and mother is the 4th commandment. Is Jesus asking us to neglect our duties? Does Christian discipleship excuse neglecting our families? Does God contradict Himself? No. Do we sometimes rationalize our cowardice or weakness by twisting God’s commands against Him? Yes. It reminds me of kids who try to avoid chores by claiming they need to work on their homework all of a sudden.
Many of us (including myself!), often excuse our lack of time for prayer by pitting it against the active life of charity. It sounds something like this: “I don’t have time to sit and pray because I need to do [fill in the blank] which God would want me to do.” A practical example would be, “I could sit and pray/ ‘doing nothing’, or work an extra hour to provide for my family, or do a load of laundry and dishes, or run an errand. God wants me to care for my family, that is my prayer.” Sometimes that might be the case. But, in truth, there’s usually time for both. This mentality has sometimes been referred to as the heresy of activism.
Spending quality time with Christ in prayer first is the foundation of discipleship. How can we follow Him if we rarely take time to listen? In addition, without prayer, even our loving activities can tend to be more self-loving rather than other-loving. Jesus knew the hearts of the two men who wanted to return to their families before following Him. Rather than contradicting His command that we love one another, especially our families, He may have been calling them out on their rationalizations.
Let’s face it, we have an inner desire for God, and we may even have authentic zeal for discipleship, but we also struggle with attachments that hold us back. The good news is that if we open ourselves up to Christ in prayer, He will reveal those attachments to us and provide the grace to overcome them. It requires resolution and determination, but with God all things are possible!
[i] Kavanaugh, Kieran, and Otilio Rodriguez, translators. The Way of Perfection: A Study Edition. ICS, 2000.
+ Like the Samaritans, how many of us hold on to bitterness, anger, or un-forgiveness? Prayerfully ask Christ to reveal if any of these are holding you back from following Him. Pray for the grace to surrender it to the Lord.
+ Like the man who proclaimed he would follow Christ wherever He goes, consider why you are a Christian. Is your love for the Lord intermixed with some self-love as well? Do you complain when you encounter trials? Are you impatient or upset when you experience discomfort?
+ What rationalizations do you use to delay responding to Christ or to responding more generously?
+ Each day this week thank God for one deterrent He has helped you overcome or from which He has freed you. Invite Him to reveal and free you from a current hindrance you may or may not realize you have.
+ Pray for an increase in resolution and determination. Choose one concrete thing you can do this week to apply it. (e.g. pray 15 minutes each morning or evening, say something kind to your spouse when you want to say something critical, hug your child when you want to throw your hands up in exasperation, choose a daily Mass to attend and do what it takes to get there, go to Confession…)
This reflection is an excerpt from Take Time For Him: Remain in His Love available in ebook or paperback. Order a copy and don’t miss a single week!
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© 2021 Angela M Jendro