My Dear Sisters and Brothers! To wonder at the challenges of following of Jesus doesn’t need to be a sign of weak faith but it can lead us to discover a more profound reality of being a disciple of the Lord. Last week we heard Jesus say: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me.” Jesus doesn’t give us crosses like his heavenly Father didn’t give him a cross to carry. His Father didn’t send him to suffer, to be crucified, but to love God’s children. If Jesus, pure Love, were sent to the angels he would be appreciated and loved in return totally but this planet is not inhabited by angels. There are sinful people here and that’s why Jesus ended up on the cross. Jesus Christ, the pure Love, by coming in the midst of us exposed himself to ridicule, exploitation, hurt and ultimately death. It wasn’t imposed upon him by his heavenly Father but it was the consequence of his choice to love us unconditionally and not to abandon his choice to love us unconditionally. All of us who has loved someone would agree that it has also made us vulnerable to getting hurt. Jesus was not an exemption.
The people from today’s Gospel who wanted to follow Jesus were thinking about benefits from this following. Jesus at that stage was still respected and appreciated. They wanted to have a share in that. However following Jesus doesn’t mean having a red carpet rolled out for you. Instead it is a commitment to be a sign of Jesus in this world. It is not an easy way of life. That’s why Jesus has given us a community where we can be assured that such a way of life is not a waste of life. This community is called Church.
Recently I have heard the story of a contemporary nun. As a young girl she discovered that the Lord Jesus was calling her. With a great excitement and anticipation she communicated the news to her family. After some awkward silence she was told by her folks to choose between the convent and her family. She chose where love was calling her. For next 60 years none of her relatives ever contacted her or even acknowledged her letters. If she was able to stay sane it was because in her decision and commitment she had support of her new family, her religious community. Sometimes following Jesus means loosing what we hold dear in order to be a lasing sign of the Gospel.
Dear Followers of Jesus! Let me finish this homily with another story of a saint. His name was Aloysius Gonzaga. His aristocratic family wasn’t excited about his call to the priesthood either. However what I find most profound is that despite being ready to be ordained a priest after completing the required formation he was never ordained. Why? Aloysius was studying in Rome when a deadly plague hit the Eternal City. The twenty-three-year old seminarian dedicated himself to caring the sick and the dying. He also contracted the disease and died. He never had a chance to celebrate Mass, to hold Jesus’ Body in his hands but by attending to the plague stricken people he touched Jesus himself who said: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” We could say after St Teresa of Avila: “Dear Lord if this is how you treat your friends, it is no wonder you have so few.” However those few are the light and the salt among us. We do need them.