Obstacles to following Christ

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Word Alive by Fr. Bel San Luis, SVD

September 8, 2019 /23nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today, September 8, is the birthday of Mama Mary. It is also the 144th Foundation Anniversary of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) to which I belong. It was founded in 1875 by a German priest St. Arnold Janssen.

The Society of the Divine Word ranks 7th largest among all the male religious congregations worldwide. To date there are 137 Filipino SVD priests and brothers working in 45 countries, making the SVD the biggest missionary-sending congregation of the Philippines.

SVD priests and brothers in the Philippines, who comprise the biggest number among the male religious congregations, are involved in the apostolates of parishes, seminaries, schools, justice and peace, mass media.

Readers are requested to pray for the Society of the Divine Word and its various missions and apostolates here and abroad.

GOSPEL REFLECTION. “If anyone comes to me without turning his back on his father and mother, his wife and children…cannot be my follower.”

These words of Christ in this 23rd Sunday’s gospel sound harsh, blunt, and disrespectful, especially for family-oriented Filipinos. But the Lord, in his hyperbolic way of teaching, is stressing an important message. He’s saying that nothing, not even family relationships, should stand in the way of following him completely.

For instance, some parents discourage a son or daughter who wants to follow the Lord in the religious life. In light of today’s gospel, those parents will be answerable to the Lord. On the other hand, there are generous parents who sincerely wish and pray that one of their children would enter the religious life. They believe that a son or daughter having a religious vocation is a special blessing.

The call to discipleship or the following of Christ applies not only to the religious life but to EVERY Christian. Jesus’ general message is that anything or anyone who is interfering or hindering the discipleship must be given up.

What are these hindrances? One is work. Some people are so enslaved with it that they have no time for God, their family and fellowmen. There’s one corporation manager who worked conservatively 19-20 hours a day. His whole life was his business.

There was nothing sacred in life, except the business. Meetings might be called on Christmas eve or New Year’s Day, on Saturdays or Sundays. One day the slave-driving boss was found slumped in his office table–a victim of heart attack! Poor guy, he ended a servant, not of people, but of money.

Another obstacle is a deep-rooted vice or sin. There’s a story about four clergymen who were discussing confidentially about their own weaknesses. “I’m very partial to eating sausages,” confided a Jewish Rabbi whose religion forbids eating pork. “I get through a bottle of whisky a day,” said the Protestant minister. “I have a girlfriend on the side,” said the Catholic priest.

Then they turned to the Born Again minister and said, “What about you—surely you have a secret vice?” “Yes,” he said, “I am a chronic gossiper.” And the three deeply regretted ever divulging their vices.

Another stumbling block to discipleship is the pursuit of inordinate money obtained through illegal and criminal means. This is shown in today’s hottest issue about “buying” of wealthy prisoners’ release from jail, now known as “GCTA FOR SALE.” Another grave offence that cries to heaven for vengeance is the merciless illegal practice of money lenders charging sky-high interests, practically driving the poor borrowers to commit suicide.

Ask yourself: “What’s the thing that hinders you from following Christ? Is it attachment to work, money or illicit relation?

The answer will be different for each and every one of us because this is something personal. But the important thing is that we must have a PLAN in life, which does not seek only material success but also spiritual.

TODAY’S HUMOR. One time while Father (later Bishop) Fulton Sheen was giving a public lecture, explaining Jonah and his mission, a heckler from the audience harassed him to the point of being disrespectful. The young fellow expressed cynical doubt whether God could make Jonah live three days in the belly of the whale. An exhausted Sheen finally said: “Forget it, I’ll ask Jonah when I get to heaven .” “What if he isn’t there?” heckled the doubter. “Then you ask him,” replied Sheen.

LESSON: If you don’t want to follow Jesus Christ, whom will you follow –the Devil? Remember: for every Christian there are only 2 choices: Heaven or hell.

The SVD Bible Diary for 2020 is now on sale at Php290.

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