Gospel Luke 9:51-62
We read in today’s Gospel something that is fundamental to the Christian life. More than any other precept or direction that Jesus gives, this one carries ultimate weight, “follow me.”
Our understanding of the Christian faith is so often one dominated by a moralism that is rightly seen as oppressive and slavish. For many this is repugnant and turns them off the faith, but for others, the reduction of the faith to a series of things that I can do to be justified is merely a convenient way to feel like I am in control. Against this, the words of today’s Gospel ring out clearly, and the essence of the Gospel calling is clearly articulated – to encounter and to follow Christ. (see also DCE, 1)
Following: This is the fundamental Christian activity. But this following is not a blind, mechanistic copying.
Fr Luigi Giussani points out that ‘following is not an unintelligent, unconscious attitude… it must be a heartfelt effort to identify with the motives of what is proposed to us.’ He continues, ‘Following does not mean being carried along by the tide; rather it is a personal decision, a continuous act of personal freedom… If you limit yourself to passive obedience it is not true obedience, Obedience requires the compliance of our entire self, with all our faculties.’ (JTE, 114)
When we read this, we should find it confronting. Jesus is asking us not for mere outward compliance, but for us to conform the entirety of our lives to him. He is asking me, you, all of us, to be saints. Not saints in an uber-pious, non-human, disembodied way, but a real, down to earth way, lived in and through the daily encounter with Christ, in the Sacraments, through his Church, and in the poor.
This is what it means to follow Christ, and this is what we ask of his Holy Spirit in our prayer.
Point to Ponder
“Following Christ is not an outward imitation, since it touches man at the very depths of his being. Being a follower of Christ means becoming conformed to him who became a servant even to giving himself on the Cross (cf. Phil 2:5-8). Christ dwells by faith in the heart of the believer (cf. Eph 3:17), and thus the disciple is conformed to the Lord.”
– Saint Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, 21