3rd Sunday Ordinary Time (January 29, 2014)
1 Cor 1:10-13,17
Three frogs were sitting on a lily pad in the middle of a large pond. After some time, all three of them decided to jump. So my question is, how many frogs were left on the lily pad? Three! You see there’s a huge difference between deciding to do something and actually doing it.
So today I’ve decided that I’m going to challenge you to do something. I’ll let you think about it for a while, but ultimately you’ll need to decide to actually do it…or not. No more just sitting on the lily pad thinking about it for days on end. The time to jump is now.
So here’s my challenge. Here’s the question I want each of you to consider today. Are you a follower of Jesus? Are you one of His disciples? Now I’m sure if I asked for a show of hands as to who here was a follower of Jesus, every hand would go up. But I want you to go deeper. Simply being present here in this church today does not automatically make you a disciple. Remember, I said I wanted to challenge you.
Let’s consider what it really means to be a follower of Jesus so that you can answer my question honestly. That seems like an easy task right? Yea sure! Did you notice in Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians that the church there was fighting over this very question? There were rivalries forming and wrong teachings about Jesus being passed around which is why St. Paul wrote the letter. It’s as if he’s saying, “Listen up people, you are losing sight of what’s important. We should be united in mind and purpose. We need to focus on Jesus Christ and stop all this bickering. We need to be true to the teachings of the Son of God!” What does this look like 2000 years later? According to a December 2011 report from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, there are upwards of 41,000 different Christian denominations worldwide. Apparently Jesus’ followers still have trouble agreeing.
So I ask you again, what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus? Does it take wealth, fame or success in life? Hardly! The very first followers Jesus invited on His journey according to Matthew were fisherman. In the ancient world, fishermen were typically not part of the elite crowd. They were hardworking people who were not afraid to get their hands dirty. Peter, Andrew, James and John were ordinary men, who were given an extraordinary challenge from a humble teacher. They were asked to leave their steady jobs, leave their families, and become “fishers of men.” Honestly, these men probably didn’t fully understand what this phrase meant, but still they dropped their nets and followed immediately without hesitation. Now roughly 1/3 of the 7 billion people on this planet call themselves Christian and it all started with a few fishermen dropping their nets to answer a call. What safety nets are you still clinging onto? What is preventing you from following Christ without hesitation?
In the Responsorial Psalm today we proclaimed, “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” But do we really mean it? Do our day-to-day actions reflect our Christian beliefs? This really hit home for me when I was ordained a deacon in 2012. During the ordination rite, Bishop Gainer handed me the Book of Gospels and said, “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” What are your actions teaching others?
One of the great marks and curses of our faith is that Jesus doesn’t force anything on us. He allows us to freely choose what we want to do in life whether it’s good or harmful for us. He laid out His teachings for us to wrestle with and now is waiting to see what you choose. Obviously He’s hoping you will choose Him, but loves you enough to not force Himself upon you. After all, forced love is not true love. True love is doing what is right even when that means you may suffer for it. Being a disciple of Christ means being willing to lay down your life, figuratively and literally, as an act of love for Him. This is the invitation that Jesus gives all of us with the first words of His public ministry, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Repent simply means, “to turn.” Turn from what? Sin. He’s telling us to stop leading a life dedicated to “me” and start leading a life dedicated to “God.” Jesus opened the Kingdom of heaven for us. He is the key that unlocked the gates to everlasting life with His Father. He is the great light prophesied by Isaiah. God sent His only Son to earth out of love. Jesus’ appearance on earth was to be a wake up call for us, but are we listening?
So…are you ready to jump off that lily pad yet? Are you ready to honestly answer if you are a disciple of Christ? There’s not enough time in this short homily to discuss all of Jesus’ teachings and discern whether you are following them faithfully or not. That’s why it’s your job to read Scripture, study Sacred Tradition, and learn about the early Church Fathers, Saints and martyrs. Make studying your faith a priority for you and your family. And when doing so, remember, “believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach.”
Learn your faith. Live you faith. Jesus is asking you to be His disciple. What’s your response???