Saturday, January 14, 2006

Follow Me

I'm back! After a very busy week, I have found some time this morning to post something substantial and reflective to the blog.

Today's readings are very specific. In the first reading, God has Saul anointed king of Israel. No training. No warning. In a phrase, Drop what you are doing Saul and follow me. The Gospel illustrates a similar point. As Jesus is teaching he calls to Levi, among others, and says, "Follow me." And Levi does. Without hesitation.

It is one thing to say the words, "I will follow you Jesus." In the scheme of things, it is easy to follow Jesus they way we think He wants us to. Doing some of the things we think might be inconvenient and "sacrifices" for Jesus are actually tremendous opportunities and privileges. For example:

We might feel like going to daily Mass, and it cutting into our schedule and routine, is a sacrifice and therefore pleasing to God. Well, that might be true, but how wonderful it is for us to be able to go to Mass so often! How glorious it is for us to be able to travel in a warm and comfortable car, listening to inspirational Catholic radio or cds, with our families or by ourselves, and be with the Lord Jesus IN PERSON every day! Why wouldn't we do that? That is not a sacrifice.

A sacrifice is travelling miles on foot, in harsh weather, under the penalty of death, to attend Mass once a month.

A sacrifice is quitting your job, leaving your family, giving everything you have to the poor and following Jesus.

A sacrifice is rotting in jail for having the courage to stand up for Jesus in a place where it is illegal.

We have it very good here. We have truly been blessed in this country. What great opportunities we have been by God!

Are you ready to get up and go when Jesus walks by you and whispers, "Follow me."

1 comment:

ND EnviroChick said...

I take a weekend off from reading your blog, and you get all prolific on me...

What I find interesting about this reading... is how different it is when it stands alone and when it is put in the context of the daily readings that began last week.

I concur that the message of this reading is that God calls us to service and sacrifice without warning and that we must choose to answer the call or not in the moment - not when it is more convenient for us, not when we feel better prepared, but at the moment that we are called. Saul's acceptance of God's call should not be discounted.

But as I read this Scripture, I kept thinking... Friday's reading spoke at length of the type of king that would be appointed over Israel - one that, for lack of a better description, does not act as though he were chosen by God. Is Saul, this man who answered God's call in this reading, to become the king against whom the Israelites would complain but God will not answer them? (1 Samuel 8:18) What happened?

I begin to get my answer in today's reading. Saul began with sacrifice, with answering God's call, and in today's reading (January 16), we see that Saul continues to follow where God leads... sort of. Saul leads Israel in battle and conquers the nations, as God called him to do, but the spoils of war are too tempting and Saul takes them rather than destroying them, in disobedience of God's will. Saul says to Samuel that he only took them to offer to God in sacrifice, but Saul responds "Obedience is better than sacrifice... and presumption is the crime of idolatry."

I wonder, how many times do we start off with the intention of doing God's will, only to be derailed by the temptations of the world? Even worse, how many times do we justify our sins under the guise of good intentions? We say - sure, I told a fib, but I did it to save someone's feelings, for example.

This reminds me of Fr. Sichko's homily this weekend that you discuss in a later blog. We say we are Catholics, and we participate in the sacrifice of the Mass (as you discussed in your blog on January 9), but if we are truly to call ourselves Catholic, then we are called to be obedient to God's Word and God's will... in ALL areas of our life, even those areas where it may be inconvenient, even in those areas where it may be a burden, or be unpopular, or put us at odds with friends and family. Fr. Sichko said that, to truly be able to call ourselves Catholics and Christians, we cannot say that our body is our own and that we can do with it whatever we wish. Scripture tells us (Sunday's second reading) that we have been purchased for a price, and therefore we should glorify God in our bodies. Our bodies are God's temples, and we should not use them to do immoral acts.

It seems to me that Saul's conversion from one who follows God to one who becomes a bane to the Israelites begins with disobedience, and with the presumption that God's will is malleable and open to interpretation. I find for myself that the wrong path begins with the first small disobedience, whether it be skipping that first workout session, or the first "cheat" on one's diet, the first lie that you get away with... or the first Mass that you skip to sleep in late, the first time that you justify disregarding Church doctrine or ignoring God's will. Each time, it gets a little easier to justify, a little easier to say NO, a little easier to turn your back on those in need.

I think that the lesson to be learned from Saul is the need to be vigilant, to not get too comfortable in our own redemption, lest our knowing that God loves us even in our sinfulness lead us away from God and tempt us into complacency... and encourage us to "slide" on our faithfulness. Saul was God's chosen ruler of the Israelites, but his presumption and disobedience become the downfall of Israel.