I will follow you wherever you go!  This person was enthused by a spirited Jesus who was on a one-way and single-minded journey to Jerusalem. The same dynamism was at work when Jesus called Peter and the others to leave their nets and follow him. I think of Peter jumping into the rough sea and attempting to walk on water and being upset with Jesus for talking about dying on a cross, and then cutting off the soldier’s ear in the garden at Gethsemani. It wasn’t so much that Peter was overly emotional, but that Jesus was a live wire with a big vision and looked as if he were going somewhere big. That he attracted crowds and provided food for five thousand in the wilderness before a Passover festival in Jerusalem, would not have gone unnoticed by the Temple authorities.

The Cistercian Bernard of Clairvaux used to ask himself why he became a monk. As we grow older our following of Jesus deepens. Why am I a follower? Sooner or later, we find ourselves saying with Simon Peter, “Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life” – John 6: 68. As we grow in understanding of Jesus, what he was about and what his message means to us, we listen better to the scriptures at Mass and ponder them at home. I think every serious follower should have a Bible at home, at least a copy of the New Testament and Psalms. I use the sacred scriptures for prayer. As words and verses leap out, I make a note of them and read and reflect on them until they become prayer. This is where we encounter Christ.

“Let me go and bury my father first” said someone whom Jesus had invited to follow him. Many go through periods in life when following Jesus feels burdensome. Sometimes he is alive and meaningful to us and sometimes he feels like a distant memory. Our experience as followers has a huge ebb and flow. The thread that holds us and keeps us faithful in good times and bad, in sickness and health, is prayer. And prayer itself flows hot and cold through us. Sometimes our hearts over-flow with noble feelings and we want to sing out to God with joy. At other times our eyes wander to our watches to see how long more the Mass will go on….

“No one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of heaven.” Peter, who once asked Jesus where he was going, received his answer only in his hour of looking back – John 13: 6ff. There is an ancient legend that one day Peter was fleeing from Rome to save his life when he met Jesus walking in the opposite direction. “Where are you going? Quo vadis?” And Jesus said, “I am going to Rome to die.” So, Peter turned around and fulfilled his promise to follow Christ. Only at the end does he have an answer to his question. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to believe with complete mind, and heart and soul and strength “that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God”- John 20: 31. Meantime we are on a journey.

Fr. QQ – 06/22/2022

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