Pick Up Your Cross & Follow Me

Welcome brothers and sisters,

We have been hearing all summer what it means to be a disciple of Christ.  Last week we heard that a Christian takes the last place, not the first.  And weeks beforehand we were reminded that a disciple prays to his father, his daddy, not to someone he fears, but someone who has enormous confidence in him.

This week the first reading that speaks of the prayer of Solomon for wisdom.  Do you know the story of God’s conversation with him in a dream one night?  It is one of the best stories of the bible.

Solomon had a dream and God said to him: “Ask me what you would like me to do for you.”  Solomon answered: “I am a young man and I don’t know where to start or where to end.  Your servant is in the middle of a very large nation.  Give to your servant a heart that can judge and discern what is good and what is bad.  In other words, give me a practical wisdom, not for myself but to serve my people.”

Then God answered him:  “Because you asked for this and not for a long life or riches neither for the lives of your enemies, I will give you this wisdom and intelligence like no one has had before.  I will give you also the things you did not ask for: riches and glory, better than any other king, and a long life as well.”

Solomon was one of the greatest kings of Israel and he puts in front of us this question: what do you ask from God in your prayer, in your dreams?  Do you ask him for anything?  Do you ask for a long and easy life, more money or a lack of difficulties or sufferings?  Perhaps it is better to be a bit like Solomon who was overwhelmed with his responsibilities, and acted like a man of faith.

I was talking with people on my vacation about my mother’s sickness, the dementia which she has had for 12 years.  She has changed from a person who had many material things: clothes, hats, jewelry, etc. and now all of that is gone.  And it is not longer important for her.  She wants to enjoy the life she has and at times is afraid of death.  The person I spoke to about my mom said something very profound: what is more important to have or to be?  It is to be, of course.  So why do we stress out so much about the things we have or want to have?

The gospel (Luke 14: 25-33) invites us to be detached from my things, my money, everything.  My heart ought to be free to love only God.  To give importance to things that are permanent, that cannot be taken away.  I ought to be building my treasure in heaven, not here.

My mother’s illness is my cross.  It is a gift for me and for her because this cross gives me life if I carry it with faith, with joy.  I invite you to think a little: what is your cross?  Do you accept it?  Do you see that your cross gives you spiritual life?  It is a great paradox that something so awful can give us life, but you will see or have already seen that it is true.

God wants you and I to be his disciples; to be a person who truly follows him.  I like that gospel when Jesus got into Peter’s boat which then caused him to catch many fish.  Jesus wants to enter your boat, your life, more deeply.  He wants a deeper relationship with you and with me.

The gospel is saying to hate the things that you put before God, not to hate your parents, but to hate the idea that you have of them or the idea you have of the way your life should be.  Accept the life the way it is, not the way I wish it would be.

God wants to see that he is the most important relationship you have.  His relationship with you is more important than the one with your spouse, your kids, and your friends.  When this is really true then your relations with others are much better.

God knows that to put him first will take time, but let us begin today.  Put God ahead of money, ahead of affections, ahead of your friends.  Put God first in your life.  How do you do this?  Be generous with your money and your time with him.  Come to the mass every week, pray when you get up and when you go to bed, speak with God for five minutes each day, make him the more important part of your day, give some time to help in the church.

God does not want to take anything away from you; he wants your heart.  He doesn’t want you to be filled with things that take you away from him.  He wants to enter your boat permanently.  Make some room for him.

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