“Then come, follow me”

The call of Jesus was the Way of Faith in God’s grace and providence, and the rich man could not be detached.

Oct 16, 2021

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings: Isaiah 53:10-11;
Hebrews 4:14-16; Gospel: Mark 10:35-45

Reflecting on our Sunday Readings with Fr Terrance Thomas

As I meditated on last Sunday’s Gospel reading, I could visualise the sparkle in Jesus’ eyes as he enthusiastically invited the rich man with these words, “Then come, follow me.” But the rich man went away sad, because Jesus asked him to give away everything. I think it is also because Jesus’ invitation to follow Him was an invitation to follow Him on the Way of Poverty, suffering, hardship … on the way of the unknown.

The call of Jesus was the Way of Faith in God’s grace and providence, and the rich man could not be detached. He could not put his whole life; his past, present, and his future, into God's hands. He couldn’t lose himself in God. He may have been proud of his merits or not humble enough to rely on God’s mercy.

In today’s Gospel, we see how Jesus admonishes His close disciples for their attachment to the human expectation to be the greatest and most powerful. This is found in our society today too. I’m sure you have read how some of our politicians were clamouring to be Prime Minister, or to obtain some ministerial post, or to sit on the left or right of the PM. We may have laughed at the antics of these politicians, but after a while, the humour turns to tragedy. Jesus noticed the same tendency among His own disciples and prophetically chides them, “This is not to happen among you.” It may have appeared to them that Jesus was leading a revolution to liberate Israel. Huge crowds followed Jesus. They numbered in the thousands, and it would not have been far-fetched to suppose that Jesus may just have had the numbers and support necessary to overthrow everything and take control of power.

It would have been the disciples’ natural expectation to get the best seats closest to Jesus. John must have been trying hardest, since he managed to lay his head on the Lord’s shoulders at the Last Supper.

A question possibly lingering in their minds would have been: “And what about us, we who have left everything and followed you?”

What do we get?

Some time ago, one of my parishioners perceptively observed “Our parishes today are preaching a gospel of prosperity.” I think her view is true — sometimes and in some places. Some proclaim this as a kind of good news, but if it is news at all, it is news written by humans and inspired by evil spirits. The gospel of prosperity leads us slyly away from the path Jesus taught. We, as clergy and parish leaders, need to be aware of this danger. Pope Francis reminded us of this when he said: “the Church is not a clubhouse for saints but a welcome home for sinners”. You may remember the passage where Jesus’ Good News was that “The Son of Man is to suffer grievously at the hands of the elders …” But Peter, and possibly the other disciples as well, had other expectations and remonstrated with Jesus. “Get behind me Satan, for the way you think is not God’s way but man’s,” was Jesus’ reply to Peter. Jesus admonishes us, His disciples today, in the same way as He taught his disciples then. If we carry the name of Christian, we ought to be like our Lord and Master. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” So why can’t we? I am sure you have meditated on the Gospel passage where Jesus asks Peter, “... do you love me?” It was a post-resurrection event, and Peter, who had witnessed His passion and death, could anticipate what Jesus would say at the end … “follow me.”

I thank God that we have a host of Jesus’ disciples, even to this day - women and men, young and old - who have answered the call of Jesus to follow Him, to serve and to give their lives as a ransom for many. To be partakers in Christ’s redemptive suffering. To have faith in God’s generous providing. They humbly trust in His mercy and are not proud of their own merits. They are wonderful examples for us to emulate. In varied life situations, the disciples of old were graced by God to fall to the ground and die so that others might live. They were the seeds of faith for the present Church. We are called today in a similar fashion to be the seeds of the future Church.

May God give us all the grace to be His true followers

Fr Terrance Thomas is the parish priest of the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Port Dickson

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