22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Three holy, religious priests, a Dominican, a Franciscan, and a Jesuit were in the same hospice. All were near death. One evening, the Angel of Death appeared before them and informed them that it was their time. He said, however, that each could have a final request before accompanying him from this world as they had scrupulously practiced the triple norms of Christian discipleship in their pretty long lives. The Dominican went first, and he asked to gaze upon the face of his Savior. In an instant, the face of Christ appeared before him. He was satisfied and felt he could die with no regrets. The Franciscan was next. He asked to touch the wounds in the hands and feet of Jesus before he died. No sooner had he spoken than Christ appeared and invited him, as he did Thomas, to examine His wounds. The dying priest touched Christ’s hands and feet, wept with joy and was content and at peace. Finally, the angel turned to the Jesuit and asked his final request. Without hesitation, the Jesuit replied: “I’d like a second opinion.”
The story mentions the three norms of Christian discipleship. But what are those three norms or what does it take to be a disciple of Christ? We hear the answer in today’s Gospel:
1. “You must deny yourself…” (Matthew 16:24) that is, denying one’s EGOISTIC desires. As a disciple of Christ, one has to let go or be detached from things that keep him/her from being a LOVING PERSON. By denying oneself one becomes focused on fulfilling the basic commandment of love, which Christ taught to His disciples. More importantly, by denying ourselves we allow Christ to fill our hearts so that we may become His instrument in mind, soul, and body.
Richard Leaky, the famous archeologist who worked in northern Kenya, discussed in his book, “People of the Lake,” what it is that separates man from the great apes. It is not man’s intelligence, says leaky, but his generosity. ONLY human beings are capable of genuine compassion and of laying down their lives for a friend. Simply put, to be Christ’s disciple is to be true to our human nature!
2. “… take up your cross …” (Matthew 16:24) that is, to CARRY ONE’S SUFFERING WITH JESUS. Yes, our “crosses” could mean our pains and sufferings but may also mean the cost of our service for others when we share our TIME, TALENT, and TREASURE until it hurts us.
As you can see, when we share what we have, we feel firsthand the hurt of letting go. But we have to bear in mind always that everything we have is a gift from God and as they are gifts, they too, are meant to be shared. The true nature of love is built upon selfless giving. Love requires a giver, a recipient, and a mutual exchange of gifts.
3. “… and follow me …” (Matthew 16:24) which means that we BECOME LIVING WITNESSES of the WORD of GOD. To follow someone implies stepping back while letting its leader to be at the forefront. In doing so, he/she focuses his/her attention on his/her leader and learns from his/her lead. By following Jesus who asks us to “take up our cross” may be deemed foolish. But in the very words of the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen, “to be a fool for Christ is the greatest compliment the world can give. You and I are in good company because most of the saints embraced the Cross of Christ and were considered fools for doing so.” We should therefore feel honored and privileged by such a task of discipleship.
Among those who showed a perfect example of following Christ was Maximilian Kolbe (whose feast day we celebrated two weeks ago). He was a priest and a devotee of the Blessed Mother. His faith was important to him but when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, he knew that because of his faith he could suffer and die. As he spoke against the horror of the Nazis, he was arrested and imprisoned in Auschwitz. When a prisoner escaped from Auschwitz, the commandant of the camp lined up the inmates of cellblock 14 and ordered the ten of them to be punished. Upon those selected was Francis Gajowniczek who cried out in tears, “My poor wife and children! I will never see them again!” Maximilian Kolbe stepped forward and volunteered to take his place. His request was accepted and assumed his place among the condemned. By August 14, Kolbe was dead and his body was cremated in the camp ovens.
We might not be able to do the same thing as Maximilian Kolbe did, but in our little way, we are bound to follow Christ’s example of compassion – to suffer with those people who need our help.
It is easier for us to simply underline the conditions of discipleship, but harder to fulfill. It is said that Jesus was an “extremophile” – a lover of the “extremes” as he laid His very own life to fulfill the will of the Father. In a way, we need to be extremophiles for Christ by giving our best or going all out so that we may live up to His commandment of love. This Sunday He calls us to be His disciples to become instruments of His love for us. A true disciple denies himself/herself and allows Christ to overpower him/her; is willing to suffer selflessly; and a true “fool” for Christ in carrying His cross. What more can we ask if by following Christ we gain for ourselves eternal reward!
Going back to the story. If you were one of the three religious priests, what would your last request be? But before saying so, why not ask these questions first: Have you denied yourself so us to open your heart to God and the needs of other people? Have you taken up your "crosses" in the same way Jesus did? Have you been following Jesus faithfully?
giopski (author) from Oakland, California on August 29, 2011:
@Dave. Thanks Dave yah it reminds me of the same thing too only funnier!
Dave Mathews from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA on August 29, 2011:
Great hub! I especially like the humor at the beginning. It reminded me of the Bible story of the poor man and Lazarus in Hell. Thank you.
Rod Martin Jr from Cebu, Philippines on August 28, 2011:
Thanks, Giopski. And a good week to you, as well.
giopski (author) from Oakland, California on August 28, 2011:
@lone77star. Thank you so much for your comments. I believe that our yearning and hunger for God's promise of eternal reward is a good motivation to keep us going. In so doing, we are able to really focus our attention to Him and Him alone. Moreover, we should not stop on simply yearning but to look more deeply into the mind of the Master. There are things that are hard to understand and at times no human solutions could solve. Only in God could we find satisfaction and through Him we could reach our goal.
You have a lovely week ahead of you!
Rod Martin Jr from Cebu, Philippines on August 28, 2011:
Great hub. Well written and inspirational.
1) This could also mean to let the ego self die. This would mean no more pride, selfishness, being victim or perpetrator... simply, no more evil. This is the ultimate act of humility -- giving up your own "entitlement" to be "right" and to make others "wrong."
2) This could also mean to take every experience as a gift, no matter how painful. To whine is to be a victim; to smile in the face of adversity is heroic.
3) Many Christians do not understand this. My own meager understanding still grows, but some have stopped searching for answers. One so-called Christian was so happy to have been saved, because now he could commit any crime and still go to heaven. Could this be that he is really following the master of this world, ego, and deluding himself about Christ?
I know that I am not yet worthy of any eternal reward, but I hunger for it with all my body and mind. And this stirs the true, immortal self, within. The awakening has begun.