Dear brothers and sisters,
In the best of times, answering God’s call to become a disciple, or a life-long student or follower of Jesus Christ, is not easy; and with COVID-19 and our challenges as a church to navigate through this difficult time, this is true more than ever: it is hard to follow Christ, to be a Christian, but it’s worth it! That sums up the message Our Lord is trying to communicate to us in today’s Gospel passage – and it’s a message that we constantly need to be reminded of. At first, it almost seems like Jesus is trying to discourage us from following him. He warns that friendship with him is demanding. To be a true friend of Jesus Christ means that everything else has to be put in second place. Everything has to be put on the table, even personal dreams, even family ties. The demands of our friendship with Jesus Christ will require us to carry a cross, to sacrifice self-gratifying desires, maybe even to endure great suffering. That sounds hard, painful, maybe even unreasonable – but God knows what he is doing! If he calls us to this kind of life style – which he does – it’s only because he knows that this is the path to lasting happiness. If we are truly living for God, to give him glory and to build up his Kingdom in the world, then God will take care of us. We will not lose our reward. St. Paul understood this; this is why he tells us in today’s Second Reading that to share Christ’s life – the life of the redeemed soul, the new life of grace won for us by Christ’s passion and resurrection – we must also share Christ’s death. We have to die to self, to put to death all selfish and self-centered desires, in order to rise with Christ, to live the life of the Spirit, the life that gives true meaning and satisfaction to our lives. Yes, it is hard to follow Jesus, but it is worth it – nothing else even comes close (adapted from www.epriest.com).
Our local diocese, the Diocese of Scranton, rejoices this weekend as Bishop Bambera has ordained three new priests: Fathers Jonathan Kuhar, Kevin Miller, and Shawn Simshock. This is the largest class of newly ordained priests in our Diocese since my own ordination in 2008. This week I will also be celebrating my 12th anniversary as a priest, and my 5th anniversary as Pastor of St. John’s. Please pray for all priests that they may shepherd God’s people in these very difficult times with wisdom and with a heart like Christ’s. To my three new brother priests in our local presbyterate – ad multos annos! (“many years!”)