Prayer and Meditation for Monday, July 17, 2017 — Serving God First — “Let The Dead Bury the Dead”

Monday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 389

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Reading 1 EX 1:8-14, 22

A new king, who knew nothing of Joseph, came to power in Egypt.
He said to his subjects, “Look how numerous and powerful
the people of the children of Israel are growing, more so than we ourselves!
Come, let us deal shrewdly with them to stop their increase;
otherwise, in time of war they too may join our enemies
to fight against us, and so leave our country.”

Accordingly, taskmasters were set over the children of Israel
to oppress them with forced labor.
Thus they had to build for Pharaoh
the supply cities of Pithom and Raamses.
Yet the more they were oppressed,
the more they multiplied and spread.
The Egyptians, then, dreaded the children of Israel
and reduced them to cruel slavery,
making life bitter for them with hard work in mortar and brick
and all kinds of field work—the whole cruel fate of slaves.

Pharaoh then commanded all his subjects,
“Throw into the river every boy that is born to the Hebrews,
but you may let all the girls live.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 124:1B-3, 4-6, 7-8

R. (8a) Our help is in the name of the Lord.
Had not the LORD been with us–
let Israel say, had not the LORD been with us–
When men rose up against us,
then would they have swallowed us alive,
When their fury was inflamed against us.
R. Our help is in the name of the Lord.
Then would the waters have overwhelmed us;
The torrent would have swept over us;
over us then would have swept
the raging waters.
Blessed be the LORD, who did not leave us
a prey to their teeth.
R. Our help is in the name of the Lord.
We were rescued like a bird
from the fowlers’ snare;
Broken was the snare,
and we were freed.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
R. Our help is in the name of the Lord.

AlleluiaMT 5:10

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Gospel MT 10:34—11:1

Jesus said to his Apostles:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth.
I have come to bring not peace but the sword.
For I have come to set
a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s enemies will be those of his household.

“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.

“Whoever receives you receives me,
and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.
Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet
will receive a prophet’s reward,
and whoever receives a righteous man
because he is righteous
will receive a righteous man’s reward.
And whoever gives only a cup of cold water
to one of these little ones to drink
because he is a disciple–
amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”

When Jesus finished giving these commands to his Twelve disciples,
he went away from that place to teach and to preach in their towns.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
17 JULY 2017, Monday, 15th Week in Ordinary Time
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17 JULY, 2017, Monday, 15th Week, Ordinary Time
DRIVEN BY FEAR OR BY LOVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Ex 1:8-1422Ps 123:1-8Mt 10:34-11:1   ]

All living things have this natural instinct to preserve their life and protect their interests.  So we should not be surprised that human beings as part of this animal kingdom behave similarly.  We dread suffering, pain and especially death.  So we will fight to defend our freedom and our needs.  When we perceive danger to our well-being or interests because of perceived or potential enemies, we take steps to eradicate our fears.

This was the case of the new Pharaoh in the first reading “who knew nothing of Joseph.  ‘Look,’ he said to his subjects ‘these people, the sons of Israel, have become so numerous and strong that they are a threat to us.  We must be prudent and take steps against their increasing any further, or if war should break out, they might add to the number of our enemies. They might take arms against us and so escape out of the country.’”  As a king, he had to consider the potential threats to their nation because of the growing strength of the Hebrews.  This situation is not new.  In our times, governments have to deal with global migration.  Because of globalization, mass communication, increased trade and improvements in transportation, migration is a reality that is here to stay.  There are serious demographical changes in most countries in the world.  What are the implications of welcoming migrants?  These are the questions that governments have to deal with, on the immediate front and the future of the nation.

The normal reaction to fear and threat is always suppression.  That was what the Pharaoh did. He tried all ways to control the growth and the strength of the Hebrews.  “Accordingly they put slave-drivers over the Israelites to wear them down under heavy loads.  The Egyptians forced the sons of Israel into slavery, and made their lives unbearable with hard labour, work with clay and with brick, all kinds of work in the fields; they forced on them every kind of labour.”  And when those measures were not effective enough, Pharaoh issued an order.  “Throw all the boys born to the Hebrews into the river, but let all the girls live.”

In the same vein, the early Christians were also persecuted by the Jews initially, and then by the Romans.  In the gospel, Jesus prophesied to the Twelve.  “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword.  For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  A man’s enemies will be those of his own household.”  What Jesus said actually happened by the time of the evangelist.  By this time, the Jews had prohibited the Jewish Christians from entering the synagogues.  Right from the start of the early Church, the Jewish Christians, especially St Paul, had a hard time explaining and convincing the Jews how Christ was the promised Messiah.  This problem was further complicated by the admission of Gentiles into the Christian Faith as it caused religious and cultural tensions. The early Christians were considered troublemakers and were responsible for dividing the family and the nation.

Later on, the Romans also began to take the Christians seriously.  Initially, they perceived it simply as a religious squabble between the Jews and the Christians.   If ever they were concerned about the Christians or the Jews, it was for political reason as they needed to ensure that law and order were observed in the country.  Otherwise, there could be social unrest due to rebellion.  But when the Roman Emperor began to assert its religious authority over the subjects and demanded to be worshipped as god, the conflicts began.   When Christians refused to acknowledge the Roman Emperor as God or worship him, or take part in their sacrifices, it was seen as treason and a rebellious act.   Of course, it did not help that there were rumors of Christians practising cannibalism and incest.

Yet, the lesson we can learn both from Pharaoh and the Romans is that persecution only makes matters worse.  Instead of stifling the rebellion or destroying the group, it only caused it to grow faster, stronger and more resilient.  We read that “the more they were crushed, the more they increased and spread, and men came to dread the sons of Israel.”  Through the hard labour they were subjected to, they became stronger and even more rebellious because of the injustices done to them.  This is true in the current turbulent world today.  When certain groups of people are oppressed, marginalized and not given the opportunities for a better life, they would align themselves and become a potent force against the establishment. Terrorists are always born out of poverty, injustice and marginalization. Terrorist leaders need to justify their actions by formulating an ideology rooted in God’s command to destroy their enemies and the rewards of martyrdom.  The more we seek to sideline an organization or a movement, the more offensive they would become; not just defensive.  They defend themselves by attacking others.  Most of all, they will put fear into the hearts of people.

In the early Church, we know that the blood of the Martyrs was the seed of the Church.  The Catholic Church did not grow out of a peaceful environment.  Many Christians in the first four centuries had to die for their belief.  Many of them were cruelly tortured and martyred to death.  Many were separated from their families.  They took the words of Jesus to heart.  “Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me.  Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me.  Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me.  Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.”  By making Christ the center of their life, they had to carry the cross like Jesus.  In the process, they came to find life.

Consequently, the way to protect our common interests cannot be driven by fear.  When we act from fear, we tend to apply actions that are detrimental to the well-being of others.  When it is a matter of “I-win, you lose”, such a principle would create resentment and anger.  We must seek to find a win-win solution so that everyone’s interests are taken care of.  Regardless of what religion we have or do not have, whatever political inclinations, we all desire peace, love and unity.  That is why dialogue is the only way out of conflict.  No peace can be built through weapons and wars.  Terrorism cannot win their battle against the rest of the world.  It only strengthens the resolve to get rid of terrorists.  But then it would be a tit for tat world.

So we must engage in dialogue so that there could be a better understanding of each other’s position; and then see whether some compromises could be made.  Let us not imagine that dialogue is a simple exercise.  It requires tremendous openness, listening skills, and the sincerity to enter into each other’s fears and desires.  Often, minds are already made up or there is no breakthrough in opening each other’s mind.  Some of us hold such deep-seated views that no one can change us.   Regardless, we still must restart dialogue when it breaks down because this is the only way out.

But the most effective way to ensure peace and unity is to build friendships even before trouble and misunderstandings happen.  We must welcome each other in Christ.  “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me; and those who welcome me welcome the one who sent me.”  We are called to welcome a prophet and a holy man.  Indeed, “if anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones, he will most certainly not lose his reward.”   Indeed, when we welcome each other as friends, then all issues can be discussed openly and with respect, but most of all with love and a sincere desire to bless each other.  In Singapore, we thank God that all religious leaders are friends with each other and always in dialogue among themselves and also with the government who sees religions as partners in the development of the country for the good of all peoples.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore 

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Commentary on Matthew 10:34-11 From Living Space

We come to the final part of Jesus’ apostolic discourse in chapter 10.

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At a first reading, today’s passage could be puzzling, not to say highly disturbing, to some. Jesus seems to contradict everything that he has said and done so far.  “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth: it is not peace I have come to bring but the sword.”  But do we not call Jesus the Prince of Peace?  Does Jesus not say during the Last Supper discourse in John’s gospel that he has come to give his peace to his disciples, a peace that no one will ever be able to take away from them? (John 14:27)

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And Jesus goes on to apply to himself a passage from the prophet Micah (7:6): “For I have come to set ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  A man’s enemies will be those of his own household’.”  It sounds a terrible thing for Jesus our Saviour to be saying.  But it expresses not what he wants to happen but what he sees as an inevitable outcome of his message of love.  It says more about us than about him.

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Unfortunately, what Jesus says has only been confirmed again and again.  We have mentioned before the paradox that the message of Jesus about truth, love, justice and freedom for people everywhere is seen by some as highly subversive and dangerous.  And people who subscribe to this vision of Jesus and try to implement it in their lives are likely to run into headlong opposition with those who have a totally different vision of life and who see Jesus’ vision as a real threat to their interests.  In a world of conflicting ideologies, philosophies, cultures, traditions, ethnic and religious identities, to declare that one is opting for the Way of Jesus is often to invite opposition, persecution and even death.

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What Jesus says here is a fact – and was already a known experience when this gospel was written.  Christianity divided families and, in some places, it still does.  But people who see and understand and accept the vision of life that Jesus offers know they have no choice but to follow it, even if close family members object.  To go with Christ is to enter a new family, with new bonds.  A family which, for its part, does not at all reject those who reject it.  The Christian may be hounded and hated and expelled by family members but that is not the way he/she is going to respond to them.  On the contrary, the dearest wish of the new Christian is that his family members will be able to see what he sees and, until they do, he will pray for them, bless them and love them.

Image result for Christ and the Children by Harry Anderson

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Jesus then goes on to lay down the conditions necessary to be a genuine disciple.  “Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me.”  In many cultures – in Asia for instance – this is a hard saying and seems to fly in the face of the filial piety and respect for the authority of elders which is at the heart of such societies.

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It is not, in fact, in conflict.  Love and respect for family members is a very high value for the Christian but there are even higher values which may take precedence.  Filial piety and parental authority can be very inward-looking, too centred on just this group of people.  Racial, national and religious identity can also be very narrow and intolerant in its understanding.

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Christianity is outward-looking and realises that there are people out there whose needs are even prior to those of my family.  To the Christian his blood family are only some among many brothers and sisters who have to be loved, served and cared for.   One is also never bound to follow family requirements which would be against truth, love, justice, honesty… As a Christian, I cannot obey a parent or other family member who practices dishonesty in business, who cheats, who sexually abuses, who practices racism or narrow-minded nationalism and the like and urges me to do the same.

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Jesus, as the Word of God, stands for a level of truth and integrity and love which is the ultimate measure of all that I do and say.  I cannot conform to the wishes of anyone, however close, who falls short of that measure.  But my Christian love and concern for that person will not be diminished, in spite of how I may be treated.

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To live like this can at time involve pain, separation, intense suffering and even death. This, I think, is what Jesus means when he says that I am not worthy of him unless I am willing to take my cross and walk with him.  There is a price to be paid for being true and loving and just.  This also is what he means by ‘finding’ live and ‘losing’ my life.  To ‘find’ life is to take the easy way of accommodation and compromise, not to mention material gain and pleasure; to ‘lose’ is to let go and let Jesus take charge.

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Of course, as Jesus points out, in the long run it is the ‘losers’ who find and the ‘finders’ who lose.

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The discourse ends with some advice about finding Jesus in other people, especially his own followers. Anyone who welcomes a follower of Jesus, whether that person is a ‘prophet’ (a missionary) or a ‘holy man’ (an ordinary Christian) welcomes Jesus himself and welcomes the Father also. Even to give a cup of cold water to a Christian because he is a Christian will not go unrewarded.

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The discourse is then clearly brought to an end by Matthew saying, “When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples he moved on from there to teach and preach in their towns.”

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2152g/

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Today’s Gospel is Related to “Let The Dead Bury the Dead” and “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

One day Jesus invited a man to follow Him and become His disciple—but the man refused. He said he would follow Jesus later, but first he wanted to go bury his father. Jesus responded, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:22).

What did He mean by this? Jesus wasn’t saying that people who were physically dead should bury other dead people; as you say, that wouldn’t make sense. Instead He was speaking of those who were spiritually dead—those who were alive physically but dead toward God in their souls. We may be very strong and healthy physically, and yet be spiritually dead—which is far more serious.

To us Jesus’ words to this man might sound harsh—but that is because we don’t understand what the man was really saying. When someone in Jesus’ day said they wanted to go bury their father, it didn’t necessarily mean he was already dead. Instead they really were saying that they wanted to stay with their father until he died—something that might be years away. This man was simply looking for an excuse to avoid becoming Jesus’ disciple.

What keeps you from following Jesus as you should? Almost anything can come between us and God; the devil will make sure of that. But Jesus’ call has not changed: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

https://billygraham.org/answer/what-did-jesus-mean-when-he-said-to-let-the-dead-bury-the-dead/

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Israel’s Enslavement

Beginning of Oppression

Joseph and his brothers died, and the children of Israel multiplied in the land of Egypt. They held important positions and played an important role in the political, cultural, and economic life of the country. It is not surprising that they stirred the jealousy of the native Egyptians who felt outshone by the “foreigners.”

Old King Pharaoh died, too, and a new king ascended the throne. He had no sympathy or love for the children of Israel, and chose to forget all that Joseph had done for Egypt. He decided to take action against the growing influence and numbers of the children of Israel. He called his council together, and they advised him to enslave these people and oppress them before they grew too powerful. Pharaoh limited the personal freedom of the Hebrews, put heavy taxes on them, and recruited their men into forced labor battalions under the supervision of harsh taskmasters. Thus the children of Israel had to build cities, erect monuments, construct roads, work in the quarries, and hew stones or make bricks and tiles. But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, and the harder the restrictions imposed upon them became, the more the children of Israel increased and multiplied. Finally, when King Pharaoh saw that forcing the Hebrews to do hard work did not succeed in suppressing their rapidly growing numbers, he decreed that all newly born male children of the Hebrews be thrown into the Nile River. Only daughters should be permitted to live.

Thus Pharaoh hoped to end the numerical increase of the Jewish population, and at the same time to eliminate a danger which, according to the predictions of his astrologers, threatened his own life in the person of a leader to be born to the children of Israel.

The Levites

The only group of Jews that escaped enslavement was the tribe of Levi. Levi was the last of Jacob‘s sons to die, and his influence over his tribe was great and lasting. They had taken over the Torah academy Jacob had established in Goshen, and they instructed the children of Israel in the knowledge of G‑d and His holy teachings. Thus they were occupied with spiritual matters and did not mix with the Egyptians, while many of their brethren had given up their old customs and way of life. Except for their language, clothing, and names, many of the children of Israel had become assimilated into the social and cultural environment of their Egyptian neighbors, and they were the ones to arouse the wrath of the Egyptians. Only the children of Levi were, therefore, spared the slavery and oppression which the Egyptians imposed upon the rest of Israel.

http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1551/jewish/Israels-Enslavement.htm

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“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
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Following Jesus is easy when life runs smoothly; our true commitment to Him is revealed during trials. Jesus assured that trials will come to His followers (John 16:33). Discipleship demands sacrifice, and Jesus never hid that cost.
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• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing some of your closest friends?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means alienation from your family?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means the loss of your reputation?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing your job?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing your life?At some places in the world, these consequences are reality. But notice the questions are phrased, “Are you willing?”
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Following Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean all these things will happen to you, but will you take up your cross? If there comes a point in your life where you are faced with a choice—Jesus or the comforts of this life—which will you choose?Commitment to Christ means to take up your cross daily, giving up your hopes, dreams, possessions, even your very life if need be for the cause of Christ. Only if you willingly take up your cross may you be called His disciple (Luke 14:27). The reward is worth the price. Jesus followed His call of death to self (“Take up your cross and follow Me”) with the gift of life in Christ: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25-26).So, the idea that all you have to do is have faith, faith which doesn’t work through love, faith that sits there dumbly and blindly, faith that ignores the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the orphan – is a false idea of the faith Jesus taught.He did not teach dead faith and He has promised to judge every one of us according to our deeds.
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Art: Gleaning by Arthur Hughes.
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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11 JULY 2016, Monday, 15th Week in Ordinary Time

A COMPROMISED FAITH

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ DT 30:10-14; COL 1:15-20; LK 10:25-37  ]

Many of us, like the Israelites during the time of Isaiah, pay only lip service to God.  In truth, we do not take seriously the implications of confessing our faith in Christ as our Savior, Lord and God.  In our prayer and worship, we worship Jesus as our Lord and profess our loyalty and fidelity to Him.  But in our lives, Jesus is anything but the Lord and the center of our lives.  Many other things take priority over Jesus.  He is not always the main consideration in all our decision-making.  Other people and things are often chosen over Jesus. Many of us have hardly any time for Him, much less to think about Him and to hold Him in our heart wherever we go, whatever we do and say.

This hypocritical profession of faith hurts the Lord even more than those who do not believe in Him because of ignorance.  The words used by the Prophet evoke the deep pain and anguish of God when we betray Him by our words and actions. He said, “New Moons, Sabbaths, assemblies – I cannot endure festival and solemnity. Your New Moons and your pilgrimages I hate with all my soul. They lie heavy on me. I am tired of bearing them.”   It is not too difficult to feel with the Lord.  How do we like people who appear to be nice to us, say all the nice things about us when they are with us, give us presents and gifts but behind our back do all the things to hurt us, talking bad about us, slandering us, gossiping about us, and going against all our plans.

Such double-faced people are even more dangerous than our enemies.  At least with our enemies, we can be on guard but with them, thinking that they are our friends, we let our guard down and allow them to manipulate and destroy us.  For this reason, the Lord told the Israelites, “What are your endless sacrifices to me? I am sick of holocausts of rams and the fat of calves. The blood of bulls and of goats revolts me. When you come to present yourselves before me, who asked you to trample over my courts? Bring me your worthless offerings no more, the smoke of them fills me with disgust.”  Indeed, for such insincere people, we would say the same thing.  Please don’t put up a mask in front of us.  We are not interested in your gifts and your sweet word from your glib tongue.

But there is nothing more heartbreaking when our so-called friends betray us by hurting those people that we love and care for.  Indeed, we have many cases when those entrusted with responsibility betray our confidence and trust.  Sometimes priests, lay leaders, uncles, aunts, guardians, teachers included, betray our trust when they molest or take advantage of our children under their care.   Others steal our money or company secrets when we thought that they could be relied on absolutely.  More so, when we have treated these people well and given them many privileges and benefits.  To hurt our loved ones hurt us most deeply because we do not want our loved ones to suffer.  This exactly was how the Lord felt for His people when He told the Israelites, “Take your wrong-doing out of my sight. Cease to do evil. Learn to do good, search for justice, help the oppressed, be just to the orphan, plead for the widow.”  In the gospel too, Jesus also identified Himself with His disciples when He said, “If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.”

Indeed, in the gospel, Jesus invites us to give our total allegiance to Him.  We are called to give ourselves entirely to Him and His gospel, without compromise, without diluting the demands of discipleship, without hesitation and without fear of suffering.  A worthy disciple is one who is willing to accept the demands and the responsibilities of discipleship.

This entails first and foremost making Him the most important person in our life.  It calls for total commitment and He must be chosen above all others.  Without mincing His words, He said, “Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me.  Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me.”   This is a tall order.  In reality, most of us put our spouse, our children and our fiancée before God.  When choosing between Jesus and our future spouse, we would choose our spouse before the Lord.  For many Catholics, having a common faith in Christ is not an important criterion in looking for a future spouse.   It is true for a person who is called to serve the Lord.  Often, he or she is hindered from serving the Lord wholeheartedly because of his or her attachment to her loved ones.

Secondly, it means that we are willing to suffer for the Lord and with Him.  Jesus said, “Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me.  Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.”   To be a true disciple of the Lord requires that we walk the same path He trod.  We are not exempted from carrying the cross to Calvary.   This cross comes about when we die to ourselves, our selfishness, our needs and our interests as we pour out our lives as a libation for the service of our Lord and His people. Only when we take risks, suffer and empty ourselves completely, can we find life.  That is why those who are not ready to suffer, to take risks, and to seek adventure, cannot live fully.

Thirdly, to be a disciple of the Lord is to be ready to accept rejection even from our own kind, especially our loved ones.   Jesus warns us, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword.  For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  A man’s enemies will be those of his own household.”   These words of Jesus are not just empty threats but He was speaking from His own life.  He too was rejected by His family members who thought He was out of His mind.  He was also rejected by some of His disciples who left Him when they could not accept His teaching on the real presence of the Eucharist.  Most of all, He was betrayed by His own people and those whom He helped when He was unjustly condemned to death.

Quite often today, when a convert chooses the Lord, he or she is often considered an outcast in his or her family and her community.  Many converts have to make the hard choice of choosing our Lord over and above their family, their clan and their community.  But because of the sacrifices they had to make in order to be a Catholic, they tend to value their faith much more than cradle Catholics.  As it is said, anything that is given to us freely and without cost is hardly appreciated.  Those of us who have been brought up in their faith or are able to practice their faith freely do not understand the great privilege we have until one day when they are persecuted for their faith and that freedom to worship is taken away.

Other times, it takes the form of rejection by our community because we want to serve the Lord as called by Him.  When we are ready to speak out against the wrong practices and infidelities in our community like Isaiah and all the prophets, we too will be persecuted.  It is always difficult to do the will of God because we will face opposition.  Most of us would just resign or withdraw rather than do the will of God for the good of the community.  We are afraid of rejection, alienation and loneliness.  But this is the sad reality of life.  Our greatest enemies, as Jesus remarked, come from our own household and our community.

How can we then give the Lord such unreserved allegiance?  It depends on whether we truly believe in our hearts that Jesus is Lord and God.  Only because He believed Himself to be our Lord and Saviour, could He then demand that we love Him wholeheartedly as commanded by Moses when he said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”  This was reiterated in the gospel of yesterday when He told the lawyer how one could find eternal life.

It was significant that He connected the love of God with the love of neighbor and self. (cf Lk 10:27)  Loving God and loving neighbor and self are linked together in one single thread.  But the primacy goes to God first, then to neighbor and self.  Accordingly, Jesus said, “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me; and those who welcome me welcome the one who sent me.  Anyone who welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will have a prophet’s reward; and anyone who welcomes a holy man because he is a holy man will have a holy man’s reward.”  In truth, choosing the Lord does not mean giving up on our loved ones or our careers or our businesses or our hobbies.  On the contrary, choosing the Lord first will help us to see everything in perspective so that we can love them rightly with the love of God in our hearts.

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