To be Resolute

Last week Jesus challenged us with these words, If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. What I find amazing is that Jesus never asks us to do things that he doesn’t demand of himself. Luke tells us this Sunday that Jesus was resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem. It is important to realize that Jesus knew his journey to Jerusalem would result in his passion. Jesus is going to take up his cross and to die for us. We know this is absolutely true because a couple of chapters later in the Gospel of Luke Jesus says to the disciples, I must continue on my way today, tomorrow, and the following day, for it is impossible that a prophet should die outside of Jerusalem (Lk 13:33).

But Jesus’ journey towards Jerusalem is also a symbolic act for the disciples. He teaches them how to take up their cross by doing it himself first. Again he is resolutely determined to go to Jerusalem; the place that he will ultimately die for us. 

This word, resolutely, sticks out to me this week. To be resolute means to be firmly resolved, determined, or my favorite definition admirably purposeful. (Greek: sterizo to be fixed firmly). It seems to me that this is the challenge from Jesus to all of us this weekend; to be resolute, or admirably purposeful, in our call to be disciples of Christ.

About five years ago, my brother and I were having a deep conversation with one another. When I first entered college at Central Michigan, my brother was already a student at the University. At the time I couldn’t wait to go to Mass with my brother at the student parish. However, I quickly realized that Dave was not in the same place spiritually. My brother didn’t want to go to Mass. During our conversation Dave said to me, “Stephen, I just need time in my own faith journey right now. I do not do things half-way, I give everything. If I’m going to buy into our Catholic Faith I want to be able to give everything first.” I appreciated his honesty with me. I encouraged him and said I was their to walk with him on the journey. Today, he is a husband and father, and even a cantor at his parish. Today he is admirably purposeful in his faith, and I’m very proud of him. What my brother’s experience teaches us is that “no one should accept Jesus’ call to discipleship without giving it careful consideration personally, physically, and spiritually.” Once the decision is made, however, there is no turning back. Jesus wants us to be resolutely determined in following him. Our lives are forever changed.

This is what Jesus desires of all of us, to be resolute in our discipleship. In our Gospel today, Jesus encounters many on the journey who are not yet ready to be resolute in their faith. They are holding on to other things. You can hear the sadness in Jesus’ voice as he has been passed over for other things by people; Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.

So, how do we become resolute disciples of Christ? It means being ready to leave old ways of living behind. These are those unhealthy habits, bad attitudes, grudges, angers and sins that hold us back from following the Lord fully. We find great encouragement for this from our first reading. Elisha is called by Elijah to become a prophet. So he goes back and gets rid of all of his wealth (livestock), feeds the people with food from the animals, and goes resolutely to follow Elijah. The challenge for us is to prayerfully consider what are those unhealthy habits, bat attitudes, grudges, angers, and sins that we need to let go of to follow Christ?

In the second reading, Saint Paul encourages us with these hopeful words: He says, Brothers and sisters: For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. We can be confident that through Christ we are truly set free. Following Christ on the journey to Jerusalem means turning away from these old ways of living. It means allowing Christ to enter into our hearts so that we can turn unhealthy habits into healthy ones, bad attitudes into good ones, grudges and anger into forgiveness, and healing from our sins. 

Recently, I saw a powerful post on Facebook regarding Pope Francis. He was sharing his nightly routine of prayer. Before going to bed, our Pope prays, “Lord if you want, you can make me clean”. Then meditating on the five wounds of Christ, Pope Francis prays for interior conversion. Francis recognizes the call to turn away from old ways of living. He also believes in the freedom that Christ brings to us.  

This is something we can all ask ourselves each day? Is my Christian Faith, is my personal relationship with Jesus something that I am purposefully resolute about? Let Pope Francis be an encouragement to all of us, to commit ourselves to praying a simple examination of conscience at the end of each day.   

Today as we receive this holy Eucharist, may we recognize God’s grace in our lives to turn away from these old ways of living so that we can be resolute in our Discipleship of Christ. 



To deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Christ

12th Week in Ordinary Time
Zechariah 12:10-11, 13-1; Psalm 63;
Galatians 3: 26-29; Luke 9: 18-24

So one of my favorite sports is basketball. And two of my favorite sporting events through out the whole year are March Madness and the NBA finals. Now I confess, recently I have loved the college game a ton more (any Spartan fans?) but recently I have been glued to the NBA Finals. That’s because of Stephen Curry. He is a very Christian man. He loves his faith and he uses it to bring Christ to others. When he pounds his chest and points above he said that this means “he is thanking God for the gift to play Basketball.” He also wears a wristband that says “In Jesus Name I play”.

What I admire about athletes is their dedication. They put their bodies to the limit in training. They are cautious of the food they eat. And, they spend hours perfecting their abilities. The same fervor and dedication that athletes endure to become successful, is the same type of dedication we need as Christians – to become saints! Saint Paul explains this well, Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.

This is what our Gospel challenges us to do in a particular way: 

 If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

I would like to suggest that these three actions: to deny oneself, take up one’s cross, and to follow Christ; is the training regiment we need to become good disciples of Christ.

Most of us have a very concrete experience of denying ourselves. This occurs during lent when we choose to limit something or to grow in some way. But we do not do this for its own sake. Rather, we give up something to grow in virtue, increase our love for our sisters and brothers in Christ, and to increase our love for God. This is how we are to be clothed like Christ (Galatians 3). Recently, I was preparing for my ordination to the diaconate. My spiritual director and I were discussing those things that I cling to that prevent me from growing deeper in my friendship with God. One of those things that can get in the way of my relationship with Christ is this little device (iPhone). The reason is my love for sports. At the time of this conversation with my spiritual director, I had seven sports applications on my phone; so that I could read every news story and rumor regarding all the sports I follow… A little much… He encouraged me to limit it to only ESPN. It has freed me up for prayer and empowered me to be more present to those around me. So, we might ask ourselves today, what is there in my life that I can deny myself of that would help me grow in virtue, loving service to others, and friendship with God?  

The next action that Jesus challenges of us this weekend is to Take up [our] cross. This is definitely the hardest one and the reason is because when ever any of us experience any suffering it almost never makes sense. All we need to do is think about the events from last weekend. The massacre in Orlando is an experience of seemingly meaningless suffering. Why did so many innocent people die? Further, why do all of their families and friends have to suffer with the loss of their loved ones due to this tragedy? The thing about suffering is that it’s never easy. But the other truth about suffering is that God doesn’t allow us to experience suffering that he hasn’t already experienced. Just look at Jesus on the Cross!  Even in this moment, God is close to the people in Orlando and he is with them in their suffering and in a special way he is with them through our prayers. 

Jesus Christ suffered and died for our sake. This is what separates us as a Christian people. Sometimes we suffer for others. For example, Mothers and Fathers here know this well. When a child gets sick, that might mean being with them through the night, and thus not getting enough sleep. That is suffering for the good of another. Jesus never said the Christian life would be easy. It may be difficult but we are called to endure to the end (John 13:1).  

Finally, we are challenged to Follow [Christ]. We are called to say Yes to Christ in the state of life right we are in right now. It means a commitment to loving service of our sisters and brothers in Christ. We might ask ourselves today, how can we better respond to Christ’s invitation to follow him? It also means a commitment to going to Mass every Sunday to be fed by the holy Eucharist. Because, it is the holy Eucharist that gives us the strength to deny ourselves and to persevere in times of suffering. It is the Eucharist that strengthens our bond with Christ. So, today, as we prepare to receive holy communion, we pray for the grace to have the perseverance similar to athletes so that we can give of ourselves completely to Christ by denying ourselves, taking up our crosses and following Christ.