Sacred Heart

Catholic Church

Imlay City, Michigan  Tel: (810) 724-1135

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Fr. Paul Ward

Sunday, June 26, 2016
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C


Decision for Christ



 In today’s first reading and Gospel, we look directly at the mystery of discipleship. The master calls, and one must choose whether to become a disciple or not. The call is individual, and it is total.

It would be most obvious to assert, “We all should answer that call,” and leave the matter at that. But in the last two thousand years, a very demonstrable minority have answered that call, and fewer still have answered it well. Why is that? Knowing the answer might assist us in giving the answer which the fewer have given; and if we would, all would be well for us.

Three people profess that they will follow Christ, and see how hard his answer is: First, he states the hardships of poverty and discomfort for his followers; second, he claims he is more important than family; third, he demands perseverance to the end, that there be no turning back. We might ask ourselves: Am I willing to embrace every unpleasant thing just to follow Jesus? Do I put my faith in Jesus and in his Catholic Church before even ties of family, or race, or nation? Am I disposed to remain dedicated to the Lord and his cross every day of my life until I die? These are hard questions; they help us understand why Catholics are the minority, and the saints still fewer.

What is it within us that resists the sweetness of the love of the Sacred Heart?!

Pope St. Gregory the Great, in his commentary on the book of Job [the Moralia], teaches us about the blindness and coldness man feels towards God. “The world receives [God] not,” he writes, “because it does not rise up to the love of the things that are unseen” (I, V, 50). And again, “In truth, in proportion as the holy mind withholds itself from the thurmoil of temporal desire, the more thoroughly it attains to know the things of the interior” (IV, 54). Pope Gregory places the soul, every soul, at fork in the road, and the soul must choose which path to follow, that of worldliness or that of discipleship, for it can’t follow both.

One road is that of worldliness. It is very comfortable, and most people in the world travel along it. It goes increasingly downhill. Every passion is fed, every carnal appetite is satisfied. It’s the path of money, vanity and pleasure; filled with entertainment, possessions and self-absorption. But look closely at those on this road: they are all unhappy and fighting with each other. Some are dragged along this road in chains held by demons, and are in such despair that they don’t resist. And look closer still at where the path ends: in the eternal fires of hell.

The other road is that of discipleship. It is very uncomfortable, indeed painful, and not many people travel along it. It goes uphill and has many obstacles; this road will make one sweat. Yet it is a road full of the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, the doctrines of the Church, and the consolations of contemplation. Now look closely at those who travel this road: even while they pant and sweat, they are so happy and sing as David sang the Psalms. See also how they help one another struggle up the mountain, and even how the angels assist them so they don’t lose their way, and lift them when the fall. Look closer still at where this path ends: eternal life, endless beauty, the vision of God, the communion of the saints, the gift of the resurrection and a banquet without end.

The men of our times rarely thinks of heaven or hell, but often thinks of money and food. He never asks the Church to show him the way, but quickly commands the Church to do things in a way that satisfies his caprice of the moment; and this is because he is enslaved to the flesh, and the turmoil of his passions is so loud that he cannot hear what faith teaches. And it is to this man, this fallen man, this confused man, this man who ignores his own eternity, to whom Jesus Christ comes, full of pity and mercy, eager to heal and ready to strengthen, saying, “Follow me.”

There are some things in life which are “grey areas,” like what’s the best option for dinner, which crops to plant in the spring, which optional courses to take in college. It can go one way or another, and turn out well. But in matters of salvation, there is no grey, it’s all black and white. Black is sin, Satan and hell; white is grace, the Trinity and heaven. Being able to live with this kind of moral and religious clarity is what St. Ignatius of Loyola called, in his Spiritual Exercises, having a principle and foundation.

This type of clarity, this either – or choice, is presented to us by Christ, by Pope St. Gregory the Great, by St. Ignatius, but also by the wise St. Francis de Sales, who wrote, “During this mortal life we must choose eternal love or eternal death, there is no middle choice” (Tr. on the Love of God, XII, 13). Let us imitate the Blessed Virgin, who chose eternal love and rejected even the smallest stain of sin, for love of our Lord, in whose mercy we all trust, Amen.
















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