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Don’t be afraid to follow Jesus

August 14, 2016

A reflection for the 20th Sunday, Ordinary Time, Year C. The readings are Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10; Psalm 40; Hebrews 12:1-4 and Luke 12:49-53.

I’m sure that many of you are sports fans. How many of you would walk down the street wearing a Toronto Jays jersey? You’d be proud to walk down the street sporting your favourite team’s logo. And during the Olympics we are not afraid to wear our national colours. But how many of you would wear a shirt that says, “I’m Catholic”, “I love Jesus” or “I love Pope Francis”?

I was just a World Youth Day in Poland. WYD is a gathering started by St. John Paul II to bring young adults from around the world so that they can meet with the Pope, learn from the bishops and celebrate their faith. Perhaps, however, what WYD really does is that is makes young people feel like they’re not alone. It’s easy to wear the “I am Catholic” T-shirt when there are 300,000 other people wearing the same shirt. At WYD everyone is wearing Catholic swag. It’s easy. Catholics are the majority. If you don’t like it, too bad. We outnumber you. But when you come back home, it’s not so easy to do. We’re too afraid of being labelled as intolerant, narrow-minded and old-fashioned.

That’s what happens to Jeremiah in today’s first reading. Jeremiah spoke the Word of God and when we do, some people don’t like it. That’s how he ends up in that cistern. Being a prophet doesn’t mean that we predict the future; that’s not a prophet. A prophet is someone who speaks the Word of God.

We are all called to be prophetic; to speak the Truth; to speak the Word of God. When we do, people label us as intolerant, narrow-minded and old-fashioned. When they can’t counter our arguments (because we are speaking the Truth and our arguments are actually better than theirs) they ridicule us and attack our personal character. That’s what happens when we follow Jesus Christ. But Jesus came to bring peace not division. We shouldn’t go out of our way to look for conflict or be divisive. Division is not of God. Division is of the devil. But when we follow Jesus Christ, we speak the Truth and we speak the Word of God, some people won’t like it and they may criticize us and attack us.

I think I’ve shared this before: When we were at the seminary, there was one of our Deacon Mentors who would always say that if we wanted to be deacons we had to be sure we looked good on wood; because we were going to be crucified. I guess if we want to follow Jesus Christ, that’s what happens.

So what do we do? Do we cower in fear? Do we worry about all the people who are against us and who are coming to get us? No. There’s no need to be afraid. The battle has been won. We celebrate the Eucharist because the battle is over. Jesus Christ has triumphed over sin and evil. We are just in the clean-up operation now. So when people attack us or challenge us, we should do what the reading from Hebrews says: Keep our eyes on Jesus and consider what Jesus endured on the Cross and how He endured opposition and hostility.We also need to learn exactly what the Truth is and learn what the Church teaches so we can have these conversations with those who disagree with us; trust me, we have better arguments; we just don’t know what they are. And then with love, compassion, kindness and mercy, we are called to talk to people, to share the Truth and the Word of God with them. If we are attacked, we don’t attack back. We love.

One of the last nights we were in Poland, some of us went out with the crew from the Polish production company we were working with. These were mostly nominal Catholics who did not practice their faith and who were mistrusting of the Church – I know ’cause they told me. But in this public patio outside a popular bar in Krakow, before we said goodbye I asked one of the priests, Fr. Joseph Anthony, to give us a blessing. He made us all stand up. There were maybe 20 of us and right there, in the middle of the patio we all made the sign of the cross and he prayed for us; He thanked God and then led us in saying the Lord’s prayer. No one laughed at us; no one pointed their fingers at us, no one attacked us or ridiculed us; no one cared. If anything, perhaps someone was touched or inspired by our public and unashamed display of religiosity. That’s being prophetic!

Don’t be afraid to make the sign of the cross or say Grace out loud in a restaurant.Don’t be afraid to walk down the street with ashes on your forehead on Ash Wednesday. Don’t be afraid to say “Merry Christmas” when someone says “happy holidays” at the mall. Don’t be afraid to tell your friends that you’ll meet them later after you go to Mass on Saturday evening. Don’t be afraid to tell your boss that you can’t work on Sunday morning because you have to go to Mass – by law he has to give you that time. Don’t be afraid to tell  your son’s  coach that you have to go to Mass on Sunday morning.

Don’t be afraid to follow Jesus Christ completely.

And don’t be afraid to wear the T-shirt to prove it.

You’ll look good.

On wood.

From → English, Reflections

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