The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Homily: January 4 - St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Readings: 1 Jn 3:11-21; Ps 100; Jn 1:43-51

“Come, follow me.” Now that’s a command Jesus directs not just to the apostles, but to each of us.

One can’t but help think of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, whose feast we celebrate today, and how she went from a life of comfort and privilege to one of sheer poverty in conformance to God’s Will.

Born on the eve of the American Revolution she followed Christ’s call into the Church and founded the Sisters of Charity. She also became the first American-born canonized saint.

Of course, unlike St. Elizabeth Seton, most of us aren’t mature enough spiritually simply to respond in faith. We need our questions answered: Where are you leading me? What exactly do you want of me?

Well, first of all, He wants us – that’s you and me – simply to listen and to respond. Just as the apostles listened to John the Baptist as he pointed the way: “Behold, the Lamb of God.” The disciples listened and followed.

This is Jesus’ call, the same call God issued at the very dawn of salvation history when He told Abraham to  walk in my presence and be blameless. And fortunately for us, God takes the initiative. It’s He who calls Samuel in the night. It’s He who seeks out Abraham, our father in faith, and Moses, the lawgiver, and Paul, the persecutor of Christians. It’s He who turns to the disciples and speaks to them.

"Behold, the Lamb of God!"
Later on in John’s Gospel Jesus states this clearly: “It is not you who chose me. I chose you” [Jn 15:16]. But does Jesus tell them what’s in store for them? No, not yet. And like the apostles, responding as we do in our spiritual infancy, the true cost of our discipleship would probably be too much for us to bear.

Only Jesus knows the cost, the demands. But He keeps it all from the least for now. That’ll come later, much later. For now He just asks them what they’re looking for. Why have they turned to the Lamb of God?

It’s here the disciples say something remarkable. Instead of answering Jesus’ question, they ask one of their own: “Rabbi, where are you staying?” His answer is brief, “Come and you will see.”

Jesus isn’t speaking of a house. He’s speaking of discipleship, for Jesus stays wherever His disciples are. He abides with them and within them. And so, to be a disciple of Jesus, to be a Christian, we must first respond to God’s call, as the apostles did, and we must do so in faith.

But that’s not all. We must live in Jesus Christ and He in us. In other words, we must follow Him wherever He leads us. And of one thing we can be sure. Following Christ always leads to the Cross. Now I don’t mean that, like Peter and Andrew, every Christian must suffer martyrdom, but there’s no discipleship, no following of Jesus, that doesn’t include His cross. To be a Christian, to be His disciple…How did He put it? You must lose your life to find it. Christianity preaches not only a crucified God, but crucified men and women, crucified followers.

“What are you looking for?” Jesus asks the disciples. And He asks each of us the same question. The answer, your answer, lies within the personal call He has issued to you.

See how He called Peter – weak-willed Peter, Peter, full of bluster and empty promises – He called Peter to be the head of His Church. What has He called you to do? "What are you looking for?" You’ll never know until you respond in faith.

“Come and you will see,” Jesus says. You will see only if you say yes to Him: yes to joy; yes to sorrow; yes to all His brothers and sisters – the weak, the hungry, the poor, the homeless, the imprisoned.

"Come and you will see"…only if you say yes to God’s call to live the life of Christ.

“What are you looking for?” Jesus asks. What kind of disciple are you? Why don‘t we all take some time today answering that question.

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