Imagine that you went to a gathering and you didn’t know anyone there, and you felt like you had nothing in common with anyone else there. You might feel somewhat uncomfortable, like an outsider, and may feel unwelcomed. So as we come to church, we have something- actually “someone” in common-Jesus. We share in the forgiveness of our sins, and the eternal love of God. We greet and welcome one another, because each of us has been given a gift, the gift of life.
In our second reading, St. Paul talks about factions. Those who try to set themselves apart from the other- little cliques of people, who would begin to criticize one another. So St. Paul had to remind them that we are united in Christ; that we are collectively a body of Christ; and that we follow Jesus. Unity means that we are one in mind and heart. We may certainly disagree with one another, but nothing should separate us. As a family of God, we learn to stick together. We sacrifice the small differences we may have for the overall unity of the church. We learn to respect the other person, not just tolerate them. We don’t just put up with one another; we respect them for who they are. Loving our neighbor as ourselves means that we don’t look down on anyone.
There have been many people, called martyrs, who have given their life for Christ and his Church. It is because they had a greater vision of what Jesus has called us to do- to love God, and to love one another, to be forgiving, in ways that may seem radical or extreme. Remember Jesus forgives those whom we think don’t deserve the time of day.
Following Jesus may often seem too difficult. It requires not only that we act lovingly, but that we think of others with respect and love. Peter and John followed Jesus without asking any questions, and without knowing exactly what they were to do. Jesus only said, “I will make you fishers of men.” They did not know what that fully meant, but they somehow trusted Jesus, and were willing to give up what they had to follow Christ. The same thing happened to James and John. They “immediately” followed Jesus. I am sure that some would have thought they were crazy to follow Jesus, and that they would have a much more comfortable life if they did their own thing, and set their own course. But they were called to repent. Repentance means to turn toward God, to make Jesus the focus of our lives. It is only when we unite ourselves to Christ that the pieces of our lives begin to fall in place, and we our lives are in good order. Of course, we will be tempted to follow our own path, and give in to loving ourselves more than others. But over a period of time, we can learn to follow Jesus.
Where do we start? We can begin right now, immediately. Just like the Apostles did in today’s Gospel. We can decide that we want to follow Jesus, and ask the Holy Spirit to help us to trust Jesus along the way.
For some, it may mean the beginning of a new life. We have been called to this life in our Baptism. We continue to live it out in the Eucharist, Communion, we share today. We will always have hope, and we can begin to see the circumstances in our lives as blessed events which draw us closer to a life of love and happiness.
Thanks for being at church today. See you next week.