The Apostles, who left everything to follow Jesus, decided to accompany him on his way to Jerusalem. They were angered when a whole community rejected Jesus because his destination was Jerusalem. The Apostles wanted to retaliate, but Jesus rebuked them and moved on to the next village.
As their journey continued, those who were invited to join the disciples offered excuses to remain behind. Of these, 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.”
In another place Jesus says, “Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no.” (Matthew 5:37). Our decision to follow Jesus must be decisive. If we recognize the urgency of the decision, our answer will be yes. As we see in the Gospel accounts, Peter, Andrew, James, John and Matthew left everything and immediately followed Jesus. We should pray that what they recognized in Jesus, we also will recognize. This does not necessarily mean we will leave everything, though some will. However, it does mean that we each recognize Jesus as the Son of God and our savior, and that he commands us to follow him with great urgency… not “at our convenience.”
- If our answer is yes, it will be reflected in the decisions we make and in the happiness we experience.
- If our answer is yes, we will spend time in prayer every day, because we want to be connected to God and receive his help and guidance.
- If our answer is yes, we will want to frequent the sacraments of reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist, because we need the grace Our Lord makes available to us through the sacraments.
Saying Yes – In Our Decisions
We may be tempted to respond like those in the Gospel who were invited to follow but were unwilling to make the commitment. Certainly, our life will be different if we follow our Lord faithfully. He does not promise that we will not have trials; however he promises that he will be with us when we experience those trials and will give us the grace to persevere. He promises happiness, hope, and peace for those who follow him. Do we believe him?
You are called. If you are a doctor, lawyer, mechanic, technician, secretary, teacher, housewife, or any other profession; you are called to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus. If we truly follow Jesus, we will not be the same as others who share the same career, because we will be changed by the grace we receive from the Sacraments of Reconciliation & Holy Eucharist, by our commitment to daily prayer, and by our desire to be faithful to the Gospel and the teachings of our Church. If we follow Jesus, the decisions we make will be influenced by our faith.
Opportunities to Say Yes
What awakens someone to desire a more meaningful life that can only be satisfied by drawing close to God? Sometimes, it is an extraordinary experience. Our Catholic faith makes available to us an abundance of opportunities to enter into an intimacy with God that will be life-changing if that is the desire of our heart.
Many years ago, as our former pastor Msgr. John Flynn was walking from the Church to the administration building, a woman approached him and said, “A year ago, I was contemplating suicide, but then I heard about your chapel being open 24 hours a day, and I decided to visit the chapel. I have been visiting every day for a year, and now I want to become Catholic.” She entered RCIA, and was received into the Church the following Easter. She did not know anything about the Catholic faith when she first came to the chapel, but she experienced the presence of God there, and she wanted to build on that experience.
- Take Advantage of the Sacraments: Next to our salvation, the greatest gift Jesus has given us is the gift of himself in the Holy Eucharist. There is nothing more important in our life than receiving our Lord in this sacrament, and yet it can become routine if we do not properly prepare ourselves through the sacrament of reconciliation and by having a prayerful disposition. (It is for this reason that we fast from everything except water and medicine an hour beforehand, to remind us that we are moving from our normal routine into a supernatural experience. This is also why we have holy water at each entrance, so that as we renew our baptism, we ask our Lord to prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it.)
- Read Lives of the Saints: The saints came from every walk of life. Some had a longing for God at a very early age. Others didn’t make that discovery until later on in life. However, everyone who became a saint was inspired either by a personal encounter with God, or by someone else who was striving to live a life close to God.
- Make A Retreat: Experiencing a retreat weekend can stir-up our hearts, but there is always the danger of falling back into our old routine if we do not follow up that experience with a commitment to make the necessary changes that will help us to draw closer to God.
- Make A Pilgrimage: Through the ages, pilgrimages to holy sites have been a way to discover deeper spiritual meaning and intimacy with God. A pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1984 changed the lives of my wife Mary Jane and myself forever. We had been routine Catholics, but two weeks of visiting the places made holy by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ awakened us to the true meaning of our faith and of our responsibility to live and share it.
If you are a routine Catholic like we once were, God has a better plan for you that will take you out of your normal routine when you say yes to his invitation to follow him as a faithful disciple. Jesus wants to be the reason you do what you do, and he promises he will be with you always and will give you the peace and happiness that can only be found in a relationship with him.