WHAT HAVE YOU LEFT BEHIND TO FOLLOW JESUS? Prayer Reflection for 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Yr. B

Many think to answer "the call" to follow the path of righteousness involves abandoning only evil things. But I tell you radical discipleship involves abandoning not only the "evil things" but "good things" as well. But why abandon good things, you ask me? Is the pursuit of the good not our ultimate goal? If this is difficult to understand, read slowly...

Mark 1:14-20
After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the Good News from God. ‘The time has come’ he said ‘and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.’ As he was walking along by the Sea of Galilee he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net in the lake – for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you into fishers of men.’ And at once they left their nets and followed him. Going on a little further, he saw James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; they too were in their boat, mending their nets. He called them at once and, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the men he employed, they went after him

1. Child of God, following Jesus, is not an easy task: you not only abandon the evil ways leading to death but must also abandon some good things for a greater good leading to eternal life. No wonder the Bible tells us that as Jesus calls his disciples, they left their nets, boats, father, employers, etc, and followed him. The things they left behind are not "evil things"-  they left their job and means of livelihood- these are good things in themselves. But why must they leave these good things? Why is this step necessary?
2. Without this second step, one's response is shallow and unrooted. Just as economic growth is achieved by continuous investment, radical discipleship is pursued by freely giving up 'goods' to achieve a more perfect good. This step is necessary to achieve perfection to overcome the many temptations that must come from the very 'good things' themselves; otherwise, we are easily defeated by the evil one who tempts us with lack or excess of those good things. Hence Jesus tells us, as He tells the rich young man, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me" (Matt 19,21). And elsewhere he says: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters-yes, even their own life-such a person cannot be my disciple" (Lk 14,26). Complementing the words of Christ  St Paul says in 1Cor 7, 29-31:

Those who have wives should live as though they had none, and those who mourn should live as though they had nothing to mourn for; those who are enjoying life should live as though there were nothing to laugh about; those whose life is buying things should live as though they had nothing of their own, and those who have to deal with the world should not become engrossed in it.
3. Child of God, the Master who calls you to follow him knows how difficult it is, how tempting and sweet it can be to follow the wiles and comfort of the flesh about the good things around us. He wants you, not to be ruled by passions but by genuine Love. He wants you to learn self-denial and sacrifice that you may overcome the Tempter. Jesus himself did not give in to the comfort of "security" and "self-preservation" against preaching the gospel of repentance after this same act of preaching cost John the Baptist his life. He wasn't deterred or give in to the wiles of the flesh to choose comfort (good) over suffering (evil).

4. The ultimate question remains: What have you left behind to follow Jesus? As husband, wife, child, clergyman, or clergywoman we must answer these questions. Just as we cherish and protect things of great value because they cost much, so we shall cherish our salvation if it rests on good things we genuinely sacrificed and left behind. We must go forward with Jesus and not look back like Lot's wife (Gen 19,26) lest we become 'pillars of salt'- hardened in our weaknesses and locked up in bitterness.
TASK: Pray Psalm 25 now asking the Lord to make you know His ways and instruct you in his paths. God bless you.

© Fr. SimOne Madu, OSJ

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