“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but not do what I command?” – Luke 6:46
Recently I was paid a great compliment: I was called a disciple. My reaction surprised me. I didn’t feel pride or embarrassment, but alarm. My immediate concern was that if people consider me disciple, they might strive to be like me and fall short of true discipleship. The closer I get to God the more clearly I see how far I have to go. I am a tall man, but a low bar.
We all have a choice to make, to leave our former life behind and follow Christ to Calvary. As Deacon Ralph Poyo shared in his recent visit, it is an all-or-nothing choice. We are called to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. The only way to put God first is to place everything else behind Him. The bad news is that we cannot work hard enough or love well enough to earn heaven without God’s grace—but neither can we cease to work and presume God’s grace will carry us. The good news is that the choice is still before us, in every interaction, every moment here on earth. How do we make the right choice in the moment? Jesus gives us clear instructions. For example:
Renounce your possessions, pick up your cross, and follow—otherwise you cannot be a disciple (Matthew 16:24-16, Mark 8:34-38, Luke 9:23-26).
Love God, love neighbor, love enemies—it is not enough to love those who love you (Matthew 5:43-48, Luke 6:27-36).
Provide for the needs of others as you would for Jesus Himself—anything less is damnable (Matthew 25:31-46).
These words are like a punch to the gut for me. I have no trouble at all crying out to the Lord, but I’m terrible at doing what He commands. I go to Mass, pray pretty regularly, and try not to sin. But I enjoy my life, I dislike suffering, and I am comfortable in this community, in my circle of friends and family, in a job that suits my skills and pays the bills. Surely I get bonus points working for the church? Didn’t the Pharisees? We have hope, however. God seeks us constantly, loves us endlessly, wants to forgive us and welcome us home. God proves His love by sending His son to sinners, to live, suffer, and die in order to save us from our sins. We can choose today to accept this love or not. We can choose to love God back or not. We can choose to follow Jesus or not. We can make this choice right now. But we can’t do it alone. If you are ready to change your life and follow Christ today, talk to someone today. Ask someone you regard as a disciple what to do next. They might be a little flustered at first, because discipleship is a big responsibility. If they are uncomfortable, it may mean they need someone to walk with, too. Ask them to partner with you. And if you don’t know who to talk to or want help from the parish to get started, send an email to email@example.com or call me at the parish office. Don’t wait. The way is narrow, but not so narrow that we can’t walk it together!
Several weeks ago I resumed praying the St. Joseph the Worker prayer on a daily basis for the first time in years. The Church teaches that the Holy Spirit calls us to prayer, and this was definitely a Holy Spirit inspiration. For the past month, time and again, I’ve been convicted by a few brief lines near the end of this prayer:
…having always before me the hour of death and the accounting I must then render of time ill spent, of talents unemployed, of good undone, and of my empty pride in success, which is so fatal to the work of God.
Prayer to St. Joseph the Worker
I don’t know about you, but I waste a lot of time. Oh, I get done whatever needs to get done, but that’s a low bar. The real question is, how do I spend the bulk of the time given to me?
I’m working on my old ’66 Ford pickup this summer. Three years ago it was a daily driver, until it conked out along the roadside between Elk River and home. Since then, it has sat in our driveway, in various stages of disassembly, while I tried to track down the problem and fix it. I’ve had the diagnosis and the parts for two years or so, and finally got it running again last month.
What took so long? First of all, there was the anticipation that the job was harder and the problem likely bigger than I understood. I was so worried I wouldn’t be able to finish the job that I failed to start it!
But more than that, I chose not to do it, because I had other projects, other priorities, other things I’d rather do. For example, in the past three years:
This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, or Corpus Christi. If you are reading this before noon on Sunday, you are not too late to join us for our annual Corpus Christi procession. Weather permitting, we will process with the Blessed Sacrament held high to bless our community in all four directions, with Scripture, incense, and Adoration, at four outdoor altars. In case of rain, a much shorter procession moves around the worship space.
The May 2020 issue of DISCIPLE shared the history of such processions in our community:
Two summers ago, Jodi and I and our youngest daughter Lily arrived at a New Family Social at St. Michael Catholic School (StMCS) to learn the ropes at a new school. We’ve been members of this parish for nearly 20 years now, and I’ve been on staff in two different roles—but when our oldest son, Brendan, was heading to kindergarten, we never made it off the waiting list for StMCS. We wound up enrolling him at Albertville Primary, and we never looked back.
We are blessed with great schools in this community, including some of the most faith-friendly public schools around. But when COVID derailed our older daughter Emma’s senior year and graduation, cancelled our youngest son Trevor’s theater performance of The Three Musketeers, and confined Lily to interacting with her classmates through a Kindle screen, we began to rethink our approach to educating our children. Two things seemed clear to us at the time:
Once the state gets involved in the day-to-day operations of public schools, it seems unlikely that they will pull back very much.
The best chance for Trevor and Lily to have a somewhat normal school experience during the 2020-21 school year would be in a Catholic school.
In case you missed the news, we’ve a playwright in the priesthood: Fr. Kyle Kowalczyk, pastor of the Church of St. Maximilian Kolbe in Delano, has also written, directed, produced, and acted in theatrical productions since high school. This week and next, his Catholic community theater company, Missed the Boat Theatre, is performing Moonshine Abbey, an original musical by Fr. Kyle and composer Sam Backman. It tells the story of a community of monks trying to preserve its rule, identity, and livelihood of brewing beer and distilling spirits during Prohibition.