Pastor's Note for the week of Sunday, June 30th, 2019
by Fr John Sullivan, SJ
In the early 1990’s the New York Mets signed the two best free agents. Everyone agreed that the Mets would most likely win the World Series. Instead of winning the championship, the Mets finished last in their division. People agreed that to win could not solely be based on the level of your talent but must include a focus on the team’s performance rather than just individual performances. So their lack of success had most to do with their lack of focus on the team.
In this Sunday’s Gospel, the Lord is also calling us to a focus. In the Gospel three people come to Jesus and offer to follow him. To the first he says that “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To the second, he says, “let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” And, to the last one he says, “No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” The words of Jesus do not sound, on the surface, to be overly encouraging. Instead they seem cold and overly demanding. The Lord, however, does not want cold and obligated disciples, he wants passionate and free proclaimers of the Good News. As St. Paul says in the Second Reading, “Christ has set us free.” The key to understanding the focus that the Lord is teaching us can be seen in the words of St. Paul where he writes, “For you were called to freedom….but through love became slaves to one another.” The focus then that Jesus is speaking of is not bound to a personal or social agenda or program but is on the experience of the love received from a loving God.
In a world filled with activity, distraction and temptation, the focus of discipleship seems impossible. Our faith however does not merely come from our minds, it comes from our hearts. If we think in our lives of those things to which we’re most committed, they tend to be things and persons for whom we have the most love. We give lots of focus to a loved family member or friend. In the same way, the following of Christ comes from and gives flesh to the love we are coming to feel for God. With love no hardship can be too heavy and no demand too great. In a similar way, a disciple of the Lord may feel the heaviness of the Cross but the disciple also feels the joy of loving freely. As we love freely, the heaviness begins to feel light and even begins to feel like a delight. Like St. Paul said we have no desire to “devour one another” but rather, to love one another. And the loving of one another is not fundamentally an idea, but it is an expression of our transformation into the love that is God.