Every Sunday we gather here in church and listen to the Gospel. We hear what Jesus says and does. We picture him as he wanders from town to town, inviting people to follow him, inviting us to follow him. In Matthew's Gospel Jesus never invites us to adore him or worship him; he simply invites us to follow him. How do we follow Jesus? We don't have to dress as he did. We don't have to speak Aramaic or observe Yom Kippur or eat kosher meals. We surely don't have to walk across deserts or sleep under the night-time stars as he did. So how do we follow Jesus?
Paul in one of his letters to the early Christian communities gives us a clue. He invites us to put on the mind of Christ and embrace the heart of Christ. What is the mind of Christ? How does Jesus think? First, we know Jesus is a man of prayer, constantly aware of the goodness and fidelity of Abba God in all life circumstances. Despite his busy life, he always makes time for prayer. Secondly, Jesus knows the importance of being humble, of being true to ones self, and avoids temptations to become what others want him to be. At the beginning of his public life, he convincingly resists the temptations of the devil, and later on those of his own people who want to crown him king. He remains a man of humility. Thirdly, Jesus thinks counter-culturally. He sees the evil in those who appear good, and he understands the goodness of those who are hated and rejected by others. He invites the last to be first, and the poor to take their place at the Banquet Table. Now if the mind of Jesus is prayerful, humble and counter-cultural, and we are his followers, should not we be prayerful, humble and counter-cultural as well?
Paul also invites us to embrace the heart of Christ. What is the heart of Christ? How does Christ feel things? First, Jesus' heart is a thankful heart, recognizing every blessing God offers. We need to accept circumstances in our lives we cannot change. We need to recognize all life experiences as gifts : not simply the obvious ones but even the unlikely ones : because they all help us grow in wisdom and grace. Secondly, Jesus' heart is compassionate. He cares deeply for people, especially for the poor, the sick, the outcasts; and he heals their bodies and their spirits. Thirdly, the heart of Jesus is courageous. He speaks truth to the power brokers of his time: the priests, the lawyers, the leaders of the synagogue, even the Roman governor. It matters not that they may have "authority" to punish him, even to execute him. He speaks the truth. If the heart of Jesus is thankful, compassionate and courageous, and if we are his followers, must not we be thankful, compassionate and courageous as well?
Following Jesus is our calling. We may be rich or poor, single, married or widowed, health-care professional or factory worker, student or teacher, farmer or city dweller, politician or small-business owner, housekeeper or senior citizen. It matters not! We are all called to think prayerfully, humbly and counter-culturally as Jesus. We are all called to be thankful, compassionate and courageous in heart as Jesus. We know following Jesus is not easy. It demands our best effort and remains a work in progress until we our last breath. Are we up to the task? We should be. The Spirit that energized Jesus is the same Spirit energizing us. But we must step aside, dismiss our private agendas, and allow the Spirit within, the Spirit that inspired Jesus, to inspire us as well. So let's put on the mind of Christ and fully embrace the heart of Christ. It is
our calling. God wants nothing less!