13th Sunday in Ordinary Times
2 Kings 4:8-11,14-16;  Rom. 6:3-4,8-11; Gospel of Matthew 10:37-42
God uses Suffering...

Preached by Msgr Philip Heng, SJ at Cathedral of Good Shepherd, on 2nd July 2017

In today’s Gospel, when Jesus instructed His Twelve Apostles, that anyone who prefers father or mother, son or daughter, or does not take up his cross and follow His footsteps, or are not willing to lose one’s life for His sake . . . then he/she is not worthy of Him.  In proclaiming this, Jesus is reminding you and I that if we are to be Jesus’ Disciples, then Jesus must be our First Love, Only Love and Final Love in our lives.  What does this mean? Is this possible for us? 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, clearly, such demands of Jesus for a single-minded, all-consuming and unconditional love for Him is only possible, if we have the divine graces, spiritual strength and the Christ-like wisdom to live such radical demands of being a disciple of Jesus.  This also means, that when Jesus gives us all we need to be His faithful disciple, we must also be willing to open our hearts to the challenges that come our way. 

In other words, we must be willing to put the demands of the call to Discipleship before our needs of our family, our many attachments in life and be willing even to lose our lives all for the sake of our salvation of our souls.  And so, we need to ask ourselves, “Are we sincerely willing to embrace such a radical invitation from Jesus?”  So as not to sound too daunting and impossible, perhaps, it might be more acceptable if I were to say, “Are we willing to let go of the different attachments that we have, one at a time, all because we know that doing God’s Will daily is more important and more fulfilling than trying to live our own will daily? 

When things go wellwith us, when our families and relationships with our loved ones are loving and peaceful, when our heath does not give us any serious scares or problems, when we are provided for materially and live in comfort, we can say that our faith is not being “tested” as to how deep it is.  But, when our lives and relationships are being tested with very serious and painful choices that Jesus asks of us orwhen we arefacing tribulations, anxieties and fears, it is during such times that we know whether we truly love Jesus, or we love ourselves, more than Jesus.  And, “self-love” can be one of our biggest hindrance of deepening our love for God and doing His Will daily.

There is a poem from an unknown author entitled, “Broken Dreams” which captures this truth about “self-love”.
As children bring their broken toys
With tears for us to mend,
I brought my broken dreams to God
Because He was my friend.

But then instead of leaving Him
In peace to work alone,
I hung around and tried to help
With ways that were my own.

At last I snatched them back and cried,
“How could you be so slow?”
“My child,” He said, “What could I do?
You never did let go.”

My sisters and brothers in Christ, when God loves us, His Love is shown and shared with us, not only in the light of what we need, but more importantly, in the light of what is goodof our eternal salvation.  God always sees this bigger picture of our lives, while we often tend to see only what affects and concerns our present life. 

Nick Vujicic was born without arms or legs his mom and his dad, an Australian pastor, were devastated at their first born son’s condition. “If God is a God of love,” they said, “then why would he let something like this happen; more so to committed Christians?”  However, instead of being angry with God, or allowing themselves to be drawn into depression, they chose to trust God and allow His Mystery to unfold in their lives over time. 

As for Nick he suffered much at school; he was bullied and rejected by the other students.  Nick admitted that he constantly questioned whether God truly loved him or not.  Thoughts of suicide plagued Nick until the age of fifteen when, one day he read the story of the man born blind in the Gospel of John 9.  He then surrendered his life to Christ.  At the age twenty-six, Nick earned a bachelor’s degree.

Due to the emotional struggles I had experienced with bullying, low self-esteem and loneliness,” Nick says, “God began to instil a passion of sharing my story and experiences to help others cope with whatever challenge they might have in their lives.  In doing so, I could see that I was turning my struggles into something that would glorify God and bless others; I then realized indeed that this was God’s Will for me in my life! 

The Lord wanted to use me to encourage and inspire others to live to their fullest potential and not let anything get in the way of accomplishing their hopes and dreams.  God’s purpose gradually became clearer to me over time and now I’m fully convinced and understand that His glory is revealed as He uses me just the way I am.  And even more wonderful, He can use me in ways others can’t be used.

Sufferings too are not always only negative experiences of life.  Joni Eareckson Tada, in her book When God Weeps, writes, “Before my paralysis, my hands reached for a lot of wrong things, and my feet took me into some bad places.  After my paralysis, tempting choices were scaled down considerably.  My particular affliction is divinely hand-tailored expressly for me. Nobody has to suffer ‘transverse spinal lesion at the fourth-fifth cervical’ exactly as I did to be conformed to His image.”

Joni realised that God uses suffering to purge sin from our lives, strengthenour commitment to him, force us to depend on His grace, bind us together with other believers, produce discernment, foster sensitivity, discipline our minds, impart wisdom, stretch our hopes.  This is so that we will come to know Christ better, make us long for His Truth, lead us to repentance of sin, teach us to give thanks in times of sorrow, increase our faith, and strengthen our character. 

And once God is able to accomplish such great things, often we can then see that our suffering and the crosses that God puts on our shoulders have been meaningful and indeed, the trials that we carry in life, as Jesus did, have been experiences of growing in the maturity and commitment of my faith in loving God our Father, hope in knowing that Jesus is always there for me when I carry my crosses, and love for Jesus, who is my constant companion in all that I do and live daily, regardless of how painful and challenging it is to be a disciple of Jesus. 

Indeed, we can be sure that God doesn’t simply want us to feel good. He wants us to be good.  And very often the road of growing in our relationship with Jesus, is that path that Jesus in today’s Gospel, says, “Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in My footsteps is not worthy of me.”

My brothers and sisters in Christ, at the end of the day, you and I are still faced with the radical Truth that what Jesus who proclaimed, to His Twelve Apostles, He is also proclaiming to us, “Anyone who prefers father or mother, son or daughter, or does not take up his cross and follow My footsteps, or are not willing to lose one’s life for My sake . . . then he/she is not worthy of Me.  In proclaiming this, Jesus is reminding you and I that, if we are to be His Disciples, then He must also be our First Love, Only Love and Final Love in our lives. 

I would like to conclude with a poem that would help us reflect on whether we are truly ready to live the call or are we still evading the call to be Jesus’ disciple which demands the single-minded, and unconditional love that He asks of us: The poem asks us to imagine:

If Jesus came to your house
To spend some time with you,
If He came unexpected,
I wonder what you’d do.

Oh, I know you’d give your nicest room
to such an honoured guest.
And all the food you’d give to Him
would be the very best.

And you would keep assuring Him
you’re glad to have Him there–
That serving Him in your home
is joy beyond compare.

But when you saw Him coming,
would you meet Him at the door
with arms outstretched in welcome
to your heavenly visitor?

Or would you have to change your clothes
before you let Him in
or hide some magazines
and put the Bible where they’d been

Would you hide your worldly music
and put some hymn books out?
Could you let Jesus walk right in,
or would you rush about?

And I wonder – if the Saviour
spent a day or two with you,
Would you go right on doing,
The things you always do?

Would you go right on saying, the
things you always say?
Or would life for you continue
as it does from day to day?

Would you take Jesus with you
everywhere you go?
Or would you maybe change your
plans for just a day or so?

Would you be glad to have Him
meet your closest friends?
Or would you hope they stay away,
until His visit ends?

Would you be glad to have Him
stay forever on and on?
Or would you sigh with great
relief when He at last was gone?

It might be interesting to know,
the things that you would do,
If Jesus came in person, to spend
some time with you.

(Adapted from: Family Life; Help for today, hope for tomorrow; article, “How God uses suffering for his glory, by Randy Alcorn;2009.)
(Ref:  http://www.inspirationalarchive.com/1383/if-jesus-came-to-your-house/#ixzz4lYjm66pA)

Fr Philip Heng,S.J.

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