If you were a part of the parish a few year ago, I encouraged you to read Forming Intentional Disciples- which I again encourage you to read or re-read. That book helps to describe who an intentional disciple is, and thus what the Church and this parish is all about. So, it is time for a status check. How many of you would say you have grown into an intentional disciple of Jesus Christ? Nowadays, I think the word ‘disciple’ has come to mean anyone who goes to Church on a somewhat regular basis and tries to be a good and virtuous person. The Scriptures, however, reveal a more elevated description of a disciple. Remember that Jesus called Peter, James, John and all the disciples, to leave everything behind and follow Him. Obviously, today, not everyone is called, to abandon everything they know, to leave their father and mother to follow and serve Christ unreservedly, though some still are. However, all of us, to a certain extent, are called to live not for ourselves but to serve God and others. This is abandoning our will and seeking the will of God, and to be willing to do God’s will, no matter the cost, is discipleship.
Listen again to St Paul’s words to us in our 2nd reading- “Brothers and sisters: None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so, then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For this is why Christ died and came to life, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living”.
Think for a second about children- don’t they think life is all about them? They expect their parents to give them everything they need (sometimes what they want too). Kids demand so much attention, and so often are the center of attention- they learn to think that life is all about them. Obviously, this is good and necessary when the children are young and developing. Even though we are called to be like children, to be innocent and dependent- Christ is calling us to spiritual maturity. Even though they might not realize it, many people tend to see God as children do, a spiritual ATM machine- they expect to get things from Him whenever they need. They expect God to give them what they want, whenever they ask for it. Some will leave the church if they don’t like the music, or the homilies, or this or that. Because in the end, they are in the mindset that it is all about them- it is about God or others meeting their desires and expectations. I love the song Heart of Worship- in it is a great line, “I’m sorry for what I’ve made it, it’s all about You, it’s all about You”. Have you become spiritually mature, or is your spiritual life childlike, and are you acting that it is still about you?
St. Paul tells us though, ‘none us of lives for oneself’. Life is not about us. We are not our own, but we are to belong to God. God is meant to be Lord of our lives. When I was in High School- I went to Mass every Sunday, I was involved in the youth group, I was doing what I was supposed to for the most part. But, I was a little out of balance on the time I spent both playing and watching sports. I also had a bunch of sports posters of my favorite players and teams in my bedroom. In itself, the posters were not a bad thing. But, one time I remember thinking: if someone came into my bedroom, they would think that I was all about sports- which I was at the time- but I also went to Church and did a lot of ‘church things’. I knew I had to decide who I wanted to be- or be seen as- do I want others to think that I love sports or God more? So, I zealously took all the sports memorabilia and put up religious things. It was a time in my life when I could clearly recall my childlike faith was growing into a more mature faith. I continued to go to Church and youth group. I would pray that God would bless me in this class, on that test, etc. I was happy and glad that God was becoming more of the top priority in my life. And I was zealous for God, I started to want that for everyone. Maybe you can relate.
However, in hindsight, I realize now, I still was not yet an intentional disciple. Because, bottom line, it was still my life, me doing what I thought I should do- it was still about what I, and what others, should do for God.
It wasn’t until I went to Franciscan University of Steubenville that I truly encountered the love of God. I came to really know and want the Heart of God, and not just know about Him. It was there that my spiritual life really deepened, and I matured. My life gradually changed from what I was doing for God, to wanting to live in and for Him- wanting to be immersed and consumed by God. My will was beginning to be conformed to want God’s will. As Jesus prayed to the Father in the Garden, “Not my will, but yours be done”. I began to learn how to surrender my life into in His hands. I remember when I came back from college after my first year, a friend I had known from the youth group- said to me, “man, you have really changed”. He meant it in a good way, but I thought to myself- how? I didn’t see it, after all I had always been about God. Now I realize though, before my life was about what I was doing for God, but it started to become what God wanted in me. What I wanted was becoming not the focus, but what God wanted was. My spiritual life was growing into becoming a disciple. God was transforming and consuming me, even without me really knowing it. His virtues- his love, his gentleness, his understanding, his patience was beginning to reveal themselves in me. Again, these virtues are not what I did, but what God did, and what I allowed God to do in me. Obviously, I am still a work in progress. I am still trying, and only sometimes succeeding, letting Him have his way in me.
Another time I was talking to a young adult, and he was telling me about what he wanted to do when he got out of college? After he told me his plans, I asked him, where does God fit in those plans? So I ask you too: where does God fit in those desires and plans of yours? Those of you who are children and maybe thinking about your future- where does God fit in those plans? Is your life going to be about you, or about Him who made you and knows the best for you? You will be the happiest doing God’s will for your life. For all of you- think about your desires for your life- your job, your family, your everything- where does God fit in those plans? Is He Lord of them, can He have His way in all those areas?
This past week, you might have heard, Fr. Pete Rossa, a 52-year-old Pastor at St. Bernadette’s in Scottsdale, fainted during Mass, hit his head on the marble, and died a day later of a brain aneurism. No matter how tragic and shocking that news is- and we certainly pray for His soul and for his family and parishioners- it speaks about our 2nd reading. “None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so, then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s”. Fr. Pete gave his life for the service of God and God’s Church; his life was not his own, he belonged to the Lord. And when he gets to Heaven, Fr. Pete will be able to do more from Heaven then he ever could here on earth. “For this is why Christ died and came to life, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living”. Fr. Pete’s life on earth was the Lord’s, and now it will only be fulfilled in Heaven. May ours be too.
So, my brothers and sisters, our life is not our own. We are not to live for ourselves, but for Him. And not just live for Him but we should be consumed by His purposes. We should be able to say, with St. Paul, “I have been crucified in Christ. I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 4:19)! Join me in praying that we will learn more and more to surrender our lives into God’s hands, and let Him live in us. I conclude with the Prayer of Abandonment, a prayer that our Bishop Olmsted prays every day in his Holy Hour. Every morning Bishop thinks about his day, the things he has to do, the people he knows he will encounter, and those he doesn’t know about yet, and he prays the Prayer of Abandonment: I know if we pray this prayer we will be closer to doing God’s will in our lives everyday too.