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Following Jesus

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In the Gospel of Mark 10:17-27, we hear a story that often challenges me. We meet a young man who has always been a good person, asks what he must do to enter Heaven, and Jesus tells him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”  

You are lacking one thing. I know most days, I have more than one thing standing between me and following Jesus with my whole heart. 

Jesus goes on to invite the young man to “come, follow me” but instead of leaving his nets like Peter and Andrew when Jesus called them, this man goes away sad, because he has many possessions he does not want to give away. He is the only person in the Gospels who does not drop everything when Jesus says, “follow me.” Most days I am more like this young man than I am like the disciples, hesitant or closed off when Jesus says: “follow me; come serve your neighbor, come embrace an uncomfortable conversation or task.” Each time I sin, I choose not to follow Jesus.  

The disciples ask an important question after this interaction, “Then who can be saved?” and Jesus so gently responds: “For human beings
it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.” I do not have to make myself perfect, but I can try each day to say “yes” in following Christ again. 

Believe in Goodness

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If you believe it, you will see it.

I am sure that you have heard this saying before. A person’s mindset does much to direct their words and actions. I happen to have a rosy disposition. I prefer to think optimistically and positively. I prefer to see the good. I have a trust in the goodness of humanity. As a result, I often believe in good so I see good. Unfortunately, this burns me from time to time. Each time I have been burned, I have grown wiser. In pondering where this Pollyanna view of life comes from, I believe it comes from growing up in the Catholic Church. There is so much richness in our faith tradition that guides us and directs us in how to “be”, all of which is very positive and loving, dare I say charitable. There is Jesus, His teachings like “The Beatitudes”. There is Mary, her fiat and modelling of devotion. There are the lives of the Saints.

Of late, I am growing more and more connected to Catholic Social Teachings due to the many issues testing our Catholic presence in the world during this post-Christian era in history. I wish to share them with you as a means to appreciating our role as the hands of Jesus in the world. They are so beautifully written. They are the basis of my leadership practices and the practices of our school.

  • Life and Dignity of the Human Person – The Catholic Church proclaims that all human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society.
  • Call to Family, Community, and Participation – Persons are sacred but also social. Marriage and the family are the central social institutions that must be supported and strengthened. 
  • Rights and Responsibilities – Every person has a fundamental right to life and to those things required for human dignity. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities to one another, to our families, and to society at large. 
  • Option for the Poor and Vulnerable – Catholic tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgement (Mt 25:31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.
  • The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers – Work is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, the basic rights of workers must be respected.
  • Solidarity – We are one human family, brothers and sisters created in the image of God, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences may be. The Gospel calls us to be people of love and peace.
  • Care of God’s Creation – We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation in all forms.

Bringing About the Realm of God

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Yesterday, I mentioned to someone that I was going on a trip to the Dominican Republic. Before I was able to explain that it was a mission trip, she responded with the same warning she had been given, “Don’t leave the resort!” Next week, I will be traveling with five of my brother diaconal candidates to visit La Sagrada Familia, the sister parish of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. We will be staying in exactly the place where tourists are told not to go. Mission is bringing about the realm of
God, especially to those places our society tells us not to go. It is a commitment to transform our world into the world that God wants for each of us, even when it feels uncomfortable. We are called through our baptism to live as Jesus lived and
become the instruments through which God works to make mission possible. Each of us has been chosen to bring love, hope, reconciliation, and healing to all people, especially to those on the margins, just as Jesus did in his day.

In hear in the Gospel, that many of Jesus’ disciples returned to their former ways of life and no longer accompanied Him because what He was teaching made them uncomfortable. Right now, I too am feeling uncomfortable about my upcoming trip. However I have chosen, like Peter and the Apostles, to stay with Jesus on mission. Please pray for our Dominican brothers and sisters, and for me, and all those who go on mission. 

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