Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,
The month of August is dedicated to devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Let us ask our good Lord and St. Joseph for the grace to know and understand the Flame of Love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and to place our trust in our Blessed Mother’s loving intercession!
This Sunday I share with you a meditation on following Jesus in discipleship. I encourage you to reflect over this message a few times this week:
Following Christ: like the Apostles, we follow Christ forever, like a goal towards which we direct our steps: The first reading of today’s Holy Mass (Joshua 24: 1-2, 15-17, 18) tells us about the moment when the Chosen People, having crossed the Jordan, are about to enter the Promised Land. Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel together at Sichem and said to them: If you be willing to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the river, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. And all the people answered him: Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord… We also will serve the Lord, for He is our God.
In the Gospel of the Holy Mass (John 6: 61-70) we also find Jesus posing the same question to His disciples. After the announcement of the Eucharist in the synagogue at Capharnaum many of His disciples abandoned their Master because they found His teaching about the mystery of the Eucharist difficult to accept. Jesus is left with only His closest followers, and He wants them to reaffirm their loyalty and their unconditional confidence in Him. So our Lord turns to those men who have followed Him thus far and asks them: Will you also go away? And Peter answers in the name of all: Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of Eternal Life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God. The Apostles say Yes once more to Christ. What would become of them without Jesus? Where would they go? Who would satisfy the longings of their hearts? Life without Christ, then as now, is life without meaning.
We too have said Yes to Jesus, for always. We have embraced Truth, Life, Love. We have directed that freedom which God has given us towards its only valid objective. The day on which Our Lord looked upon us in a special way we told Him that He would be the goal towards which we would direct our steps; and we have since told Him on many other occasions: Lord, to whom shall we go? Without You nothing has any meaning.
Today is a good opportunity to examine the sincerity of our self-surrender to Our Lord, to see if we joyfully put aside anything that prevents us from following Jesus. Ask yourself now - I too am examining my conscience - whether you are holding firmly and unshakeably to your choice of Life? When you hear the most lovable voice of God urging you on to holiness, do you freely answer ‘Yes’ (St. Jose Escriva, Friends of God, 24) To say Yes to Our Lord in all circumstances means also saying no to other paths, to other possibilities. He is our Friend; only He has the words of Eternal Life.
The signpost on the road. Our freedom in following them: Like those disciples who reaffirmed their full adherence to Christ at Capharnaum, at all times and in all places there are many men and women who, having walked perhaps for a long time in dark-ness, eventually find Jesus and see the path that leads to Heaven open and marked out before them. So it has happened in our lives too. At last we discover that our freedom was given us not just to go from one place to another without a fixed reference point, but rather to make for a goal: Christ! Then we began to understand the surprisingly joyful character of the freedom that chooses Jesus and draws us closer to Him, and rejects what separates us, because by itself freedom is insufficient: it needs a guide, a pole-star. (St. Jose Escriva, Friends of God, 26) The North Pole of our freedom, which points out at every moment the direction we should take, is Our Lord, because to whom shall we go if not to Him? What would we do with these few short days of life that God has given us? What is there that is worth the straw without Him?
For many people, unfortunately, freedom means following one’s impulses or instincts, allowing oneself to be carried along by one’s passion or by whatever one feels like doing at the time. Many people think like this, and they forgot
that freedom is certainly an inalienable and basic human right,
but for all that it is not characterized by the possibility of being
able to choose evil, but for ‘the possibility of being able to choose
the good in a responsible fashion’, recognizing it and desiring it
as such. (St. John Paul II, Address, 6 June 1988) A person who
has a mistaken and impoverished notion of freedom will reject the
idea that there is a valid and obligatory goal for all mankind to
follow, because it will appear to him as something opposed to
freedom. (C. Burke, Conscience and Freedom)
If we have chosen Christ, if He is truly the object of our striving
and of all our actions, over and above any other, then everything
that teaches us how to journey towards Him, or that highlights the
obstacles that separate us from Him, we will see as an enormous
benefit, as a sure guide for which we are deeply grateful. A traveler
in an unknown land takes care to read a map, asks people who
know the way and follows the signposts, and does so willingly
because he wants to get to his destination. In no way does he consider
that his freedom is being restricted, or does he consider it a
humiliation to have to depend on maps, signposts or guides to get
where his is going. If he is unsure, or begins to feel lost, the signposts
he meets are for him an occasion of reassurance and relief.
In fact, very often we rely more on maps or signposts than on our
own sense of direction, of whose untrustworthiness we have plenty
of experience. When we follow the signposts we don’t have any
sense of being imposed upon; rather do we welcome them as a
great help, a fresh piece of information which we immediately
proceed to make our own. This happens with the Commandments
of God, with the laws and the teaching of the Church, and with the
advice we receive in spiritual direction or which we look for in
difficult situations. They are like signposts which in various ways
guarantee our freedom, the free choice which we made to follow
Christ and not explore other paths which lead to places where we
don’t want to go. The Church’s Authority, in its teaching on Faith
or morals, is a ‘service’. It is like the signposts on the road leading
to Heaven. It ought to be trusted because it enjoys a Divine
Authority. It is not imposed on anyone. It is simply offered to mankind.
And each one can, if he or she wishes, make it his own. (C.
Burke, Conscience and Freedom)
We shouldn’t be surprised if sometimes these Divine Signposts
invite us to abandon paths or roadways that appear more attractive,
and lead us instead along others that are steeper and narrower
and harder. Although we may be asked to give up a comfortable
existence, we will always have joy, even when we feel that the
going is heavy, that our life has the achievement of a difficult goal
ahead of it, which we opted for perhaps a goodly number of years
ago, or maybe only a few days back. Let us head for the summit,
where Christ is waiting for us.
True freedom. Renewing our self-surrender to Our Lord: The
signposts Our Lords gives us have to be trusted. They are not restrictions
imposed on mankind, they are not onerous burdens.
They are radiant sources of light which illuminate the road, enabling
us to see and to travel more easily. The person who tries to
respond sincerely to the Grace of God will discover true freedom
by following Jesus. On hearing His voice one sees, at last, one’s
way: the Commandments then are not seen as an imposition from
outside, but as a requirement that is born within, and to which,
therefore, the Christian submits willingly, ‘freely”, because he
knows that in this way he fulfils himself more fully. (St. John Paul
II, A ddress, 6 June 1988) And we take the free decision through
which we seek after good in our work, in honest recreation, in
family life, in friendship, in all noble things - a decision that is
often renewed, through which we adhere to Christ and thus
achieve that fullness of being to which we have been called.
St. John Paul II tells us that man cannot be genuinely free or foster
true freedom unless he recognizes and lives the transcendence of his being over the world and his
relationship with God; for freedom is always the freedom of man
made in the image of his Creator… Christ, the Redeemer of man,
makes us free. The Apostle John records the words: ‘If the Son
makes you free, you will be free indeed’ (John 8:36). And the
Apostle Paul adds: ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom’
(2 Cor 3:17). To be free from injustice, fear, constraint and
suffering would be useless if we were to remain slaves in the depths
of our hearts, slaves of sin. To be truly free, man must be liberated
from this slavery and transformed into a new creature. The radical
freedom of man thus lies at the deepest level, the level of openness
to God by conversion of heart, for it is in man’s heart that the roots
of every form of subjection, every violation of freedom, are found.
(St. John Paul II, Message for World Peace Day, 8 December 1980, 11)
Each day we follow Christ we experience more strongly the joy of
our choice and the broadening out of our freedom, at the same
time as we see around us the slavery of those who at some stage
turned their back on God or who didn’t want to know Him. Slavery
or Divine Sonship, this is the ‘dilemma’ we face. We can
choose to be children of God or slaves to pride, to sensuality, to
the fretful (of) selfishness which seems to afflict so many souls.
Love of God marks out the way of truth, justice and goodness.
When we make up our minds to tell Our Lord, ‘I put my freedom in
your hands,’ we find ourselves loosed from the many chains that
were binding us to insignificant things, ridiculous cares or petty
ambitions. (St. Jose Escriva, Friends of God, 38) When we choose
Christ as the purpose of our life we have gained everything.
Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of Eternal Life.
Let us reaffirm today our following of Christ, with a lot of love,
trusting in His merciful help; and with complete freedom we can
tell Him: I put my freedom in Y our hands. Let us also imitate her
who said: Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be in me
according to your word.” (From: In Conversation with God by
Through the intercession of Mary, the Queen of Heaven and earth,
St. Joseph, St. Michael and St. Paul, may God grant us the grace
of being generous and faithful disciples!
In Christ through Mary,