Why are the first two readings relevant to Sunday’s Gospel? They speak of the need for conversion and the attachment to things of God instead of the things of this world, which will pass away. We all must make choices that not only affect our lives, but also the lives of others. If we only live for ourselves and what the world has to offer we are destined for sadness and we will have a negative impact on our families and on the Body of Christ.
In the Gospel we see Jesus call the first Apostles. What compelled Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John to immediately leave everything and follow Jesus? They were already disciples of John the Baptist who was preparing the way for the Lord and they were prayerful men looking for the Messiah who was to come. They had set their hearts on something greater than what the world had to offer them. They were given the grace to see that in Jesus the longing of their hearts would satisfied.
The question to each one of us is; on what have we set our hearts? What is most important in our lives? Of course there are a lot of things that are very important, but what is most important for us as Christians? As the Lord commands us, we must love the Lord our God with all our mind, heart, soul and strength and our neighbor as our self. This is what is most fundamental and affects all our relationships, especially with family.
Because of our fallen nature, we have a tendency make our needs and wants our priority, which is destructive. Jesus says, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Mk 8:35-36). In other words, when our relationship with God is our priority we are not only destined for eternal life, we also have the possibility of reaching our potential for happiness in this life.
Of course this demands an effort on our part. “We must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Christ.” We can’t just do everything we want to do. We cannot allow our appetites and desires to control our lives. To be a Christian is not a casual thing. If we are truly Christian we cannot be attached to the things of this world. Certainly we must plan for our future and that of our loved ones, but only by being good stewards of what Our Lord has given us. We must remember that all good things come from God and He expects us to be generous with what we have received from Him as he is generous with us. Our resources are important, but they are not as important as our dependence on God, which is the fruit of our conversion and a desire to fulfill his will in our lives. Even those who have amassed great material wealth are not secure from the tribulations of this life. During our time on this earth, Our Lord expects things from us that we can only accomplish with the help of his grace which he makes available to us through the Sacraments of our Church. Our only true security is a complete trust in God which is a consequence of faithful discipleship.
Peter, Andrew, James, and John embraced the message of John the Baptist to prepare the way for the Lord through a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. So when Jesus said, “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel,” they immediately followed him. Because they put their total trust in Jesus, they became the first Apostles and the foundation of his Church.
We are not called to be Apostles, but we are called to be faithful disciples, which require us to make the Kingdom of God our priority. We received our call in baptism when we received the gifts of Faith, Hope and Charity and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. That is why a child at an early age may think that God has a special plan for them. I have heard priests say that even as early as age four they believed they were called to the priesthood. This is why parents and godparents should encourage children to think about their relationship with God and the possibility of the religious life.
At a pilgrimage reunion a few months ago one of the pilgrims said that when he was sharing his experience with his family he noticed that his grandson was showing a lot of interest. He felt the notion to ask him if he ever thought about being a priest. He said he had not, but now that it was mentioned to him he would. We just need to plant the seed and let God do the rest. There may be girls and boys among your family or friends for which God has a special vocation that will help them to find great happiness in this life and for all eternity as they respond to his call. Maybe they just need your invitation.
Our readings today are about conversion and discipleship, both of which are necessary for real happiness in this life and for all eternity. The path is the same for us as it has been through the ages; faithfulness to what God has revealed through the Church and the Scriptures, daily prayer, living the sacramental life, and continuing to grow in the Faith by being good stewards of our time, talent and treasure. Only in God can we find real and lasting happiness and peace.