“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but not do what I command?” – Luke 6:46
Recently I was paid a great compliment: I was called a disciple. My reaction surprised me. I didn’t feel pride or embarrassment, but alarm. My immediate concern was that if people consider me disciple, they might strive to be like me and fall short of true discipleship. The closer I get to God the more clearly I see how far I have to go. I am a tall man, but a low bar.
We all have a choice to make, to leave our former life behind and follow Christ to Calvary. As Deacon Ralph Poyo shared in his recent visit, it is an all-or-nothing choice. We are called to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. The only way to put God first is to place everything else behind Him.
The bad news is that we cannot work hard enough or love well enough to earn heaven without God’s grace—but neither can we cease to work and presume God’s grace will carry us.
The good news is that the choice is still before us, in every interaction, every moment here on earth.
How do we make the right choice in the moment? Jesus gives us clear instructions. For example:
- Renounce your possessions, pick up your cross, and follow—otherwise you cannot be a disciple (Matthew 16:24-16, Mark 8:34-38, Luke 9:23-26).
- Love God, love neighbor, love enemies—it is not enough to love those who love you (Matthew 5:43-48, Luke 6:27-36).
- Provide for the needs of others as you would for Jesus Himself—anything less is damnable (Matthew 25:31-46).
These words are like a punch to the gut for me. I have no trouble at all crying out to the Lord, but I’m terrible at doing what He commands. I go to Mass, pray pretty regularly, and try not to sin. But I enjoy my life, I dislike suffering, and I am comfortable in this community, in my circle of friends and family, in a job that suits my skills and pays the bills.
Surely I get bonus points working for the church? Didn’t the Pharisees?
We have hope, however. God seeks us constantly, loves us endlessly, wants to forgive us and welcome us home. God proves His love by sending His son to sinners, to live, suffer, and die in order to save us from our sins. We can choose today to accept this love or not. We can choose to love God back or not. We can choose to follow Jesus or not. We can make this choice right now.
But we can’t do it alone. If you are ready to change your life and follow Christ today, talk to someone today. Ask someone you regard as a disciple what to do next. They might be a little flustered at first, because discipleship is a big responsibility. If they are uncomfortable, it may mean they need someone to walk with, too. Ask them to partner with you. And if you don’t know who to talk to or want help from the parish to get started, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at the parish office.
Don’t wait. The way is narrow, but not so narrow that we can’t walk it together!
Labels: Catholicism, charity, column, community, conversion, discipleship, evangelization, grace, heaven, hell, mercy, salvation, scripture, work