On the day of their confirmation our young people confirm their resolve to follow Christ. Now they are no more Christians simply because their parents decided to baptize them when they were babies. The decision is theirs, and they are now becoming adults in their faith journey.
I think of all this a I hear the words of Jesus in today’s gospel: “Follow me”. It’s his calling … it’s my response. That’s what discipleship is all about. Sometimes we might think that it’s been our choice, our decision. If that were the case, we would be able to do it on our own terms. But, since it is his calling, his initiative, we must let him decide how we’re going to do it.
“Follow me”. The Christian, the disciple of Christ, is one who follows. I remember the beautiful episode when, in the gospel, Peter tried to lead Jesus, rather than follow him. It was when Jesus was telling his disciples that he was heading towards Jerusalem to meet his fate: passion, death and resurrection. Of course, Peter did not like the idea of suffering and death. Who does? So, he rebuked Jesus telling him that such should never happen. In this instant Jesus, who had just chosen Peter as the “rock” on which to build his Church, had a very harsh reaction. “Get behind me, Satan”, he told Peter. Peter had to understand that the place of the disciple is to be behind Jesus, not in front of him. To follow, not to lead. Otherwise, he would not be any better than “Satan”, the rebellious one who became God’s adversary.
In today’s gospel, we have a couple of instances when Jesus tries to help understand his followers this basic fact about discipleship. When Jesus was not made welcome by the Samaritans, James and John suggested that that city should be destroyed by fire coming down from heaven. Of course, this was not the way of the Master, and they had to learn that being a disciple means walking on the Master’s footsteps. Jesus is for mercy, love, forgiveness and compassion, not violent vengeance.
Later on, someone told Jesus that he wanted to follow him. For some reason, Jesus discouraged him. Perhaps he wanted him to understand that it was Jesus who decides what he should be doing, not vice-versa.
Yes, the disciple is one who follows the Master, which means that he has to be attentive to see where the Master is leading him. Sometimes, following Jesus might give you some surprises. Joseph DePiro was one who had accepted to follow Jesus throughout his life. “I follow you wherever you go” was, in fact, his life-motto. This made him change course mid-way through his legal studies to enter the seminary. This also led him to found a Religious Congregation with the aim of sending missionaries where they were needed. Today, June 30, is the anniversary of when, back in 1910, the first members joined DePiro to start what we now know as the MSSP. It is an opportunity to thank God for this great man who, as a true follower of Christ, was able to listen and go wherever his Master led him.