"Teacher, wherever you go I will come after you."
Following Jesus is not a "part-time" deal. It's not summed up by what I do on Sunday. It's not just developing "my prayer time" with Jesus. And, it isn't even about doing good and avoiding evil. In Matthew's gospel Jesus seems to say, in very attention getting ways, that following him is about a radical transformation of our lives and involves a radical commitment.
Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24; 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15; Mark 5:21-43
Faith. When I read today’s Gospel, it made me think about how the people who followed Jesus at that time were lucky to see him in the flesh. I wonder at their faith in this man. I fear I might have been more like Thomas of another Gospel and doubted. Yet we read of the woman who knew she only had to touch his clothes and she might be made whole. We hear Jesus say to the family of the young girl who they believed had died: “Do not be afraid. Just have faith.”
Lamentations 2:2, 10-14, 18-19; Matthew 8:5-17
Today’s scripture readings are an interesting mix. More than a little confusing at times. In Lamentations, the writer feels God’s anger has brought Israel to ruin. It seems to be a call to repentance and mourning. Worn out from weeping are my eyes. Cry out to the Lord. Let your tears flow like a torrent. Pour out your heart like water. The psalmist also cries out asking “Why, O God, have you cast us off forever?” And in Matthew, Jesus heals the servant of the centurion and hails the faith of the centurion. A man who is a member of the group that will kill Jesus.
Not as a prize for saying the correct answer, but as an affirmation and ordination, Peter is called to be the”Foundation” person among the “called”. The word we use for “church”, which is taken from the Greek, means “those who gather together because they have heard something which calls them together”. Peter is named to be the chief caller. In a sense he is called to be a caller. He became the first person of the Church and so defines what the Church is.
It is attractive to write and talk about the power of the “keys” and the power to loose and bind. It is tempting to use this text as a proof for the divine power given to the Pope as the successor of Peter. These are all good things about which to write, but the central picture or image is of the meaning and the mission of community, or the Church. Do we know who we are? Do we like who we are? Do we know what we are meant to be doing? If we are not sure, then we need texts to prove and power to defend ourselves. Peter and Paul did not seem to need defense or proofs, but faith in the events of their active lives.
The first part of today’s gospel reading is about consistency between stated goals and steps to reach them. Calling myself a follower of the Lord will take me nowhere, unless I bring that proclaimed allegiance to bear on the way I live, unless I am “one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” Most of us realize this and so we set about doing something to qualify as legitimate followers of the Lord. But that is where the second part of today’s gospel reading plays an important role.
Generally when I try to heed the warning to beware of the false prophet I remind myself to be cautious around political leaders and church hierarchy and other power brokers. And of course there are many times when such individuals fit the bill. But this seems too easy. It is so much more comfortable to identify the faults of others. The attribution of power, greed, and vanity to another person can help us feel safe. It is easier to diagnose the shortcomings of another than to explore the actions and thoughts and choices of ourselves.
Matthew 7:6, 12-14
In today’s gospel Our Lord advises we “enter through the narrow gate,” not the “wide one.” Both are unlocked, and each gives access to a way with its own destination. One has “Death” blazed across it and the way it opens up leads to a dead end: it gradually leads to death. The sign on the other says “Life,” and the way it opens leads to eternal life in the Kingdom of God. Our Lord leaves it up to us to choose which one to enter.
2 Kings 17:5-8, 13-15a, 18; Matthew 7:1-5
Do not judge, that you may not be judged. Is the Lord telling us to “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”, to be naive and undiscerning? Part of the prophetic role of the baptized is precisely that: to be prophetic, not to abstain from taking positions. Part of our being sent is to call evil what is evil and good what is good. But this does not necessarily mean that we have to set ourselves up as judges of others.
Isaiah 49:1-6; Acts 13:22-26; Luke 1:57-66, 80
Today is known as “Little Christmas”. It is the birth of the sixth-month older cousin of Jesus. There were some who believed John to be the Christ, but the Gospels make it quite clear that his destiny was to be the forerunner and baptizer of the Christ.
There is nothing known or written about any friendship they enjoyed after their womb-to-womb meeting during Mary’s visitation to John’s mother, Elizabeth. John is pictured as having a light to shine toward and upon Jesus, but as the Evangelist John writes in his first chapter, “He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light.” John 1, 8
When I was a child, the gospel from today seemed straight forward – no one can serve two masters, so pick one and stay on that team. I didn’t need to be told not to worry about life because life’s worries didn’t really impact me. I had a nice home, plenty to eat, pleasant diversions. Life was good, and although I didn’t think about it then, I probably felt like the birds in the sky, singing and soaring and doing what I was called to do with blissful abandon.