The Challenge of Following Jesus

Matthew 8:18-22
Amos 2:6-10,13-16 / Ps 50:16-23

“Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.”
(Matthew 8:22)

To be a follower of Christ
Entails a lot of sacrifice,
But in the end we’ll win a prize
Far greater than we can surmise.

When Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to cross to the other side. A scribe approached and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest His head.” Another disciple said to Him, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But Jesus answered to him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.” (Matthew 8:18-22)

Reflection

In today’s Gospel, we find two kinds of followers: the hasty, and the reluctant disciple. The first was a scribe, who, after witnessing all the miracles that Jesus had performed, and the amazing lessons that He taught, could hardly contain himself, and at the spur of the moment, decided that he would go with Jesus anywhere He went. But our Lord knew that the scribe’s commitment was merely skin-deep, and driven only by his emotion of the moment, so Jesus reminded him that if he wanted to go with Him, he would have to leave the comforts of home. Another man, who had already decided to be His disciple, asked to be given a little time to bury his father; but instead of letting him go, Jesus said, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.”

It may strike us at first as strange that our Lord would reject one who was eager to follow Him, and yet force another to come with Him and abandon his duty to bury his father first. But upon reflection, we realize that in the case of the first eager follower, our Lord must have known that he did not have a firm commitment to serve in God’s ministry or vocation. And in the case of the second, Jesus is saying that nothing is more important than serving in the kingdom of God. Let those who are “spiritually lifeless” be the ones to bury the dead, who no longer needed to be saved; but those who have life in the Spirit have a greater duty to the living. In effect, Jesus is saying, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God” (Lk.9:62). The conditions for following Jesus leave no room for concessions. As our Lord showed in His own passion and death, we must be focused and resolute in pursuing the ultimate purpose of our life, whatever conditions may prevail against it. St. Peter said, “Do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you… But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when His glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly” (1Pet.4:12-13). St. Paul likewise said, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). These two saints practiced what they preached, and were martyred for the sake of establishing the Church in Rome.

Last Saturday, (June 30), our Church commemorated the Feast of the First Martyrs of Rome. These were the men and women who willingly suffered martyrdom and death at the hands of the Roman Emperor Nero (AD 64) as followers of Jesus Christ. The pyromaniac emperor burned the city of Rome and laid the blame on the early Christians, thus encouraging their mass executions all over Rome. As history has shown, their martyrdom became the strong foundation in the process of evangelizing the entire Roman empire to the Catholic faith. It is not easy to live our faith in Jesus. There will be a lot of trials & sacrifices involved, and comforts and privileges set aside. We need to make a strong commitment, and trust fully in God’s guidance. After all, this is what faith in Jesus is all about.

Lord God, as all the followers of our Lord Jesus had shown us in the bible, there is a price to pay to be His disciples. Strengthen our resolve to follow Him, because as He assured us, all our sacrifices are nothing compared to the prize that awaits us in heaven. Amen.

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