As several people have asked for me to publish my first homily as a deacon (I have not posted here at Life At 25 since well before our class was ordained), I will oblige that request. I am happy to publish my reflections here so long as readers actually wish to read them.
A reminder of the readings for this past Sunday:
A friend of mine who is also a fellow deacon shared with me something on the internet that cut right to the heart of today’s Gospel. It was a sign which said “God demands full custody, not just weekend visits.”
On multiple occasions in the Gospels Jesus admits he is the Messiah, or the Christ, and tells people who confess faith in this reality not to tell anyone. Biblical scholars call this “the Messianic Secret”…of course, people from the blind man to the woman at the well repeatedly violated this request of Jesus. We aren’t under any such request to keep quiet about Jesus or who he is. Instead, Jesus asks of us the exact opposite. By word and example, Jesus wants us to tell everyone that he is the Messiah, and to declare his Lordship to the whole world.
Jesus also makes clear to the apostles, and to us, just what the cost of genuine discipleship would be. Yes, Jesus promises us an eternity with God if we love him, keep his commandments, and follow him. He promises us lives of contentment and genuine joy if we are willing to look to the example that he has set forth as our model and our pattern. He does not promise us perfection in this life, nor does he promise that we will always feel happy every single day or get everything we want. Rather than that, Christ says “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
We know that as Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, so we will one day rise from the dead in glorified bodies when Christ returns. In a few minutes we will profess that we believe this article of our faith in the Creed. But Jesus did not rise as the Firstborn of the Dead without first having to endure the suffering of Calvary. If Christ is our example, neither can we. We will all have our own Calvary in this life, and some people are called to Calvary again and again.
Jesus does not promise us riches or material security in this life if we follow him, though we know that God has blessed some of His followers with these things and that there is nothing wrong with material contentment so long as we remember that those things which we have are not ours, and thus we have to bless others with the good things we have been given. Christ tells us all quite plainly that the cost of following him will be very high indeed. Ask any of those who have been martyred by ISIS and other anti-Christian groups this very year what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ…I am sure that any of these people or their families could give us a firsthand tutorial in Christian discipleship. In our time there is a higher cost even in our own land where we are not under the immediate threat of martyrdom. It could cost us business, or work, or friendship, or contacts, or more, to take that stand for Matrimony in the way that God intended, or for the dignity of every human life from conception until natural death. It can cost us a great deal in the years to come to insist that God “made them male and female.” It can cost a great deal indeed to stand up for the dignity of every person, regardless of the shade of their skin, or their ethnic origin, or how they came to be here, or the language that they first spoke.
We all came here this morning to celebrate the Eucharist, and to receive Jesus Christ Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. In doing so, we are making a public statement that we believe in what the Church teaches as we best understand it…we are saying that we are followers of Jesus Christ. We should all be ready to ask ourselves if we are truly ready to follow Him. If we are willing to come today and, by our action of receiving Holy Communion, say to our neighbors “I am a follower of Jesus Christ, I am a part of His Body, the Church,” are we also willing to say to the world “I bear the name of Jesus, so I will also bear His Cross.”