There were two days during the last week where the daily Scripture passages really struck me – last Wednesday and then again on Saturday. Wednesday’s Gospel was from Luke 14:25-33, Sayings of Discipleship, and Saturday’s was from Luke 16:9-15, The Parable of the Dishonest Steward.
In the first, Jesus lays out the conditions of discipleship:
- In all our relationships, including those with our family, friends, and neighbors, our relationship with Jesus must always come first.
- We must carry our own cross and follow Him even when it hurts.
- We must know the cost of following Him and plan and prepare accordingly. That cost will include being virtuous in the face of persecution and suffering, as well as requiring our effort to combat worldly indifference.
- We must exercise prudence – do the right thing in any particular situation, choose our battles, and resist foolishness, impetuosity, thoughtlessness, inconstancy, and negligence.
- We must turn loose of any disordered attachments which we desire more than Him.
In Luke 16:13, Jesus tells us, “No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Our Lord is saying we can’t be a devoted servant to Him if we are a slave to another.
Together these spoke to me about total commitment to Christ. Not just sometimes, not just when I feel like it, not just when I have time, but all the time, and especially when I’m suffering from something I don’t like, didn’t choose, can’t change or don’t understand.
As I meditated on these two passages, trying to understand the depth of their message and implications, my mind, as it all too often does, drifted in prayer. I recalled my 36 year career in corporate middle management, how I survived several buy-outs and mergers, each with a change of leadership, and with each change a “new and improved” corporate vision, mission and culture.
I recalled one particular newly promoted vice-president telling us that we needed to decide if we were going to be the “pig or the chicken” in the new company. He went on to tell a story of how a pig and a chicken joined together to create a new restaurant business. They discussed roles and responsibilities, and when they came to deciding what would be on the menu the chicken suggested they offer a variety of meals consisting of either ham, bacon or sausage with eggs. The pig thought about that a while and retorted that the arrangement seemed quite unfair. The chicken, thinking her idea made perfect sense asked the pig what he meant. The pig answered, “Well, it seems to me that I am committing to give up my life for this endeavor while your involvement is only dedicating the occasional egg.”
In essence, that new exec was asking us to decide if we were going to be fully committed to the company’s direction or would our dedication be intermittent, jumping on board only when that which was being asked of us was in line with our opinions, made us feel good and satisfied our own desires. As a manager I was expected to set an example for the employees who reported to me. But, truth be known, there were many times I felt like balking, procrastinating, going a different direction, and objecting because toeing the line was simply too demanding of me.
Coming back to the present moment in my prayer, I thought I had been distracted with that crazy memory. But, then, I realized that the Holy Spirit had led me to exactly the place He wanted me to go: to examine and understand my level of commitment to being a disciple of Jesus. Am I a full-time or part-time Catholic? He asks that question of each of us.
A good place to start answering Him is to consider the depth of your love for God. Do you envision Him with loving eyes looking down upon you, His beloved son or daughter? Do you realize that His great love has provided everything you have, including your family and friends? Do you express your love by being grateful for all He has given you?
Do you love Him by simply loving those around you, even your enemies, by doing what is right and just, by loving them as you should love yourself?
Do you love Him in the sacraments, especially the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation? During the liturgy of the Mass do you focus on trying to understand His will for you that day? Is your attention completely captured during the epiclesis when the Holy Spirit is called down to sanctify the bread and wine making real the body and blood of Christ? Do you frequent the Sacrament of Reconciliation out of love for God because you have offended Him, or is your motive to selfishly rid yourself of guilt?
Do you love Him in your suffering, by accepting your cross as an opportunity to grow closer to Him, to grow in virtue, and to aid Him in His redemptive mission to save souls?
Do you demonstrate commitment by defending your faith in the face of persecution from those who ridicule you for your belief? Do you practice integrity when you are faced with tough choices by doing the right thing?
Do you love God by looking within yourself and identifying those things to which you are attached, those ingrained bad habits and vices which unnecessarily draw you away from Him, and resolve to change for the good by resisting their temptations?
Being fully-committed means living one life for God rather than giving only a part to God while reserving a second part for yourself. Our commitment has to be more than giving an hour a week to Him when, out of habit, we attend Mass, or when we say grace before meals. We have to live it every day, all day, in our relationships, our work, and our play for the mere glory of God.
A good way to begin moving towards living a life fully committed is to begin each day with gratitude, giving thanks for one more day to live and love Him, and for all that He provides. Then, in prayer, offer to Him out of love all that you will do and experience that day – your work, prayer, joy and suffering – to aid in Christ’s salvific mission of saving souls. Then, spend time with Jesus in prayer, asking Him to show you what His will is for you that day and resolve to do what He tells you. And, finally, carry out your resolution.
Truthfully, none of us are perfect, we are all sinners to some degree. We are all on an elevator somewhere between the basement of minimum involvement and the penthouse of full commitment. Each day we move up and down in that elevator, yet the goal of our lives is to ascend more floors than we descend and ultimately reach the top floor, heaven. The important thing to remember is that, while God keeps the elevator running, we are the ones pushing the buttons.
“Loving Father, I give You thanks for Your eternal love, and for the opportunity to love You each and every day. As I operate this elevator of daily life, help me, Lord, to resist pushing the down buttons that move me away from You. Amen.”
(Are You a Full-Time or Part-Time Catholic? was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
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