January 23, 2011


At once they left their nets and followed him. – Mt. 4: 20

During the terrible winter at Valley Forge , a government official arrived on the scene to get a firsthand report on the actual field situation from Gen. George Washington himself. He immediately began complimenting Washington on his ability to hold the army together under such terribly trying circumstances: “Gen. Washington , you are a great leader, a great man, an inspiration to us all.” Whereupon Washington , standing in the midst of his suffering troops, broke in impatiently, saying, “Never mind all that. Just tell me where you stand in relation to the cause I represent.”

We are like that man. We come here on Sundays praising God. But if we really listen, we can hear Him say to us, “Never mind all that. Just tell me where you stand in relation to the Kingdom of God .” It comes down to this: a decision each one of us must make about our devotion to Christ, our love for Him, & our willingness to follow Him.

When Jesus called people to be His disciples, He didn’t ask them to accept certain concepts, or endorse certain ideas. He simply said, “Follow me.”

“What does it mean to be a Christian?” asks author William McNamara. His answer: “It means that Christ holds the central position in your life. It means that you are haunted & hounded by His beauty, ever ancient, ever new….” Francois Mauriac, the French writer/philosopher wrote, “Once you know Him, you cannot be cured of Him.” We need to ask ourselves, is it in Christ that we find strength to live our lives with integrity, day-in & day-out?

For St. Paul , the experience was a dramatic, traumatic happening on the road to Damascus , but not everyone comes to discipleship like that. God in His goodness gives us all kinds of experiences when we make our decision. It can be a very tender, a very healing, a very peaceful experience. I can’t believe that those who dropped everything to follow Him in today’s Gospel didn’t already have some familiarity with Him before taking such drastic action.

St. Paul also makes it clear that even after the decision there is real life confronting us. Things happen that knock us down, dampen our spirits, & make us wonder if our decision was genuine. We soon discover that our commitment is constantly in need of renewal. After the resurrection, Jesus gave Peter a kind of final exam, as it were, to test Peter’s readiness to be an Apostle. He simply asked Peter 3 times, “Do you love me?” That is what it comes down to.

We all have our agendas for what we are going to accomplish in life. Few of them will be realized. Our plans get wiped out & we have to re-evaluate our entire agenda. Sometime, despite our best efforts to shut Jesus out of our life, He maddeningly insists upon insinuating Himself back in until we are forced to take notice, & finally yield to His advances. That is what Francis Thompson’s poem “The Hound of Heaven” depicts so eloquently. We could find a much worse lover than Christ, & all too many of us do! AMEN!