Some weeks ago I paid a visit to the Car Wash. They received my car, gave me a ticket, and invited me to sit down in a small waiting room area. I found a seat in the waiting room, which was empty apart from a man and a woman sitting together; I pulled out my cellphone, to start posting something on my blog. I was wearing my roman collar, and I noticed that the couple seemed to be staring at me from across the room. I ignored them and went back to my cellphone to open up on Facebook and Twitter. I looked up again and they were still looking at me. I tried to angle my body away from them so that I couldn’t see them, but then they whispered something to each other, stood up, made their way towards me, and took a seat right next to me.
“Are you a Christian or Catholic?” The first thing I thought about was today’s Reading, in which it is asked, Are you of Paul? Or of Apollos? I told them, “I’m both.” They were taken aback, “What do you mean? Are you Christian or Catholic?”—”Well,” I told them “There’s no such thing as a non-Christian Catholic, so I’m Christian; and the fullness of the Christian faith is universal, world-wide. In fact, that’s what the word Catholic means, universal; and so I’m both!” They gave me a strange look, “Wait a minute, so are you a Priest or not?” — “I try to be!” I said, jokingly, ” Why do you ask?” — “Well,” said the man, “I used to be Catholic…” (I always know it’s going to be an interesting conversation when it starts off like that!) “But when I used to go to Mass I would see Father so-and-so arriving with his big car, not saying hello to the parishioners, and generally being completely unwelcoming. Then I found out that he liked his martinis every once in awhile! I lost my faith. I don’t believe in Priests, and that’s why I left the Church.” Then the wife piped up and said, “You want to know why I left? The choir! Nobody sang, and if they did they were off key. Mass was boring and useless to me, especially the homilies. I could barely hear them because the PA system was so bad. I was falling asleep anyway.”
After all this I think they must have picked up something in my expression, because they stopped all of a sudden and asked me, “Well, what do you think?” I said to them, “Well, it sounds like you didn’t have a Christian faith to begin with.” They were surprised, “Why do you say that?” “Well,” I said to the husband, “I don’t believe in Priests either. If you place your faith in a human being, the moment you discover that that human being is not perfect, that he has flaws, then your faith will crumble and fall. It sounds like what you had was not a Christian faith, but a priesty faith” Then I turned to the wife, “And you? It sounds like you placed your faith not in a human being, but in an experience. You placed your faith in the experience of an emotional high, singing and dancing and feeling God. That doesn’t sound to be a Christian faith either, that sounds like a choiry faith. True faith is founded on Jesus Christ and not on people or even emotions. It is He who calls us and fills us with life, not Priests, not the Choir, or the PA systems, or exciting homilies. That is the message of today’s Gospel, “Come and follow me!” This is Jesus’ message to each and every one of us, “Follow me” (Mt 4:19).
If we place our faith only in a human being, be it our spouse, our boss, our best friend, or our priest, we will always be disappointed. People disappoint; we’re not perfect. The most that any religious leaders can do is to point to Christ and try to be a selfless instrument for His work, especially through the Sacraments. With our fallen human nature, and bearing our own sins, we try to point to Him who is life, to Him who continues to seek us out. Day after day, He calls out to us, “Will you follow me, today?” and day after day we decide what our answer will be. Day after day, we see Christ also seeking us in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, seeking union, communion, with us, “Follow me.” In Jesus Christ is the glue that binds all of our relationships together; He is the life, the way, and the truth. He is love made flesh, so it is only through Him that we can find true love for our spouses, our neighbors, ourselves, and even our enemies. Beyond our emotions, beyond our flawed human nature and our sins, Christ binds us together in love. You may ask, but how can I love myself, when I am both sinful and redeemed? These two opposing realities can be reconciled by the love of Christ.
Our love is in Christ; our gaze is on Him. Let us ask the first disciple of Christ, the first to respond with “Yes! I will follow you,” and, “Yes, I will do your will,” to help us in our prayers. We ask the Blessed Virgin Mary that through her will and her Fiat, she will help us to hear the voice of Jesus Christ, and to follow him with authenticity, decisiveness, and courage.
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