Thursday, August 06, 2015

Which Way Shall I Go?

By Colleen O’Sullivan

“Did anything so great ever happen before?  Was it ever heard of?  Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live?  Or did any god venture to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, with his strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors, all of which the Lord, your God, did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?  All of this you were allowed to see that you might know the Lord is God and there is no other.   (Deuteronomy 4:32b-35)

Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?”  (Matthew 16:24-26)

If you want to follow Jesus, you’d better look good on wood.  (Daniel Berrigan, S.J.)

Life presents each of us with an array of choices, various paths down which we can elect to walk.  Some people pick the good times route, living from one social activity to the next, filling their days on earth with fun and games, vacations and partying.  Others of us stroll down the accumulation of material goods boulevard, wide enough to hold all the clothes, cars, books, furnishings, decorations, etc. that we think will bring us fulfillment.   Then there are those who pick the ladder to career success as the viable way to go.  Or some of us take the escapist route, choosing to dull the inevitable pains and sufferings of life with alcohol, prescription drugs, or illegal substances.

These all turn out to be paths to nowhere.  They may look attractive today, but the satisfactions of following such human pursuits are short-lived.  As Jesus points out, they are sure and certain ways to lose our lives in the end.  

Our God, however, sets before us another option, the way of life.  In today’s first reading, Moses says to the Israelites, Have you ever seen anything like this before?  We’ve got a God who speaks to us from the midst of fire, and we live to tell about it!  We’ve got a God who loves us so much that he rescued us from slavery in a powerful land like Egypt.  It wasn’t easy, but God did it because God loves us as only God can.  Just follow this God of ours.  You’ll be on the right path, and God will lead you in the way to go.

Jesus tells the disciples, “If you want to live, follow me.  Only don’t fool yourselves; my way is the way of the Cross.  That will be your fate, too.  But it will be worth it in the end, and I will be with you every step of the way for all eternity.”

God and his Son set before us the way of life, but how many of us want to follow?  In the desert on the way to the Promised Land, our ancestors in faith sat down and sulked.  They didn’t trust God to provide for them.  They even wished they were slaves again, because at least in Egypt they knew where their next meal was coming from.  Many of us shortsightedly would rather make do with the things of this world than face the specter of the Cross, any cross.  We don’t fight for justice because we don’t want to take up causes, however righteous, that might render us unpopular with family or friends.  We don’t minister to the lepers of our day because, well, it’s more fun to do other things.

Take a few minutes to imagine yourself quietly sitting with Jesus’ body after it’s been removed from the Cross.  Maybe you could picture yourself preparing his body for burial.  Notice the wounds he willingly bore for you.  Think about the suffering leading up to the Crucifixion that he endured out of love for you.  Reflect on the many ways Jesus has shown you his love all throughout your life.

There’s something about doing this that makes me realize how much I love Jesus and how much I want to be with him.  All the other paths available to me lose their attraction.  No one seeks a cross, but why would I go out of my way to avoid one when I see what my Savior was willing to go through for me? 

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