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Persevering to the End
Memorial of Saint Francis of Assisi
As Jesus and his disciples were proceeding on their journey, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” And to another he said, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.” And another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.” Jesus answered him, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, as I begin my reflection on your words, I thank you for the roof over my head and the ability I have to sit comfortably and quietly for a few minutes in your presence. Open my mind to hear the message you have for me today.
- The Anonymous Someone: Someone pledged to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” We know the names of key characters in Scripture, but this eager disciple was not identified. His or her enthusiasm for discipleship was challenged by Jesus, who seemed to say, “Really? Even if there’s nowhere to rest our heads?” Perhaps this individual was the personification of the seed that fell on rocky soil. Jesus knew that his or her promise to “follow wherever you go” was shallow and lacked roots. Devotion must be proven through discipline. “Those whom I love, I reprove and chastise. Be earnest, therefore, and repent” (Revelation 3:19). Our desire to follow Jesus must be more than lip service. We need enthusiasm and perseverance. Bless us, Lord!
- Excuses, Excuses: When Jesus asked the two disciples to follow him, both gave seemingly good reasons for delaying. Jesus’s answers seemed harsh. In truth, there are no good excuses for ignoring, procrastinating, or rejecting the will of God. As St. Paul warns in 1 Corinthians 10:21, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?” We are invited to discern God’s will, but once he’s made it clear, we are to follow. Fortunately, as Jesus’s disciples, we follow his will confident that our wise and generous God gives us every grace we need.
- Final Perseverance: To the man who wanted to say goodbye to his family, Jesus said “so one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.” When we follow Christ during difficult situations, emotional upheaval can make us feel like a failure. “I can’t” overwhelms our mind, as we struggle to put one faithful foot in front of the next. Our Lord asks us not to dwell on the difficult work at hand, or on our missteps, but to look ahead and have an eternal perspective, trusting in the grace of final perseverance. As St. Jerome says, “Begin now what you will be hereafter.”
Conversing with Christ: Lord, you know me better than I know myself. I do not fear my weaknesses because of your strength and grace. I want to follow you wholeheartedly but I fail often. Help me to rely on your mercy, on the sacramental grace of reconciliation, and on the grace of final perseverance so that I can remain peaceful in the midst of trials.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will reflect on all of the moments I “succeeded” in loving others and thank you for allowing me to follow you.
For Further Reflection: Final perseverance consists in “an ever watchful superintendence of us on the part of our All-Merciful Lord, removing temptations which he sees will be fatal to us, succouring us at those times when we are in particular peril, whether from our negligence or other cause, and ordering the course of our life so that we may die at a time when he sees that we are in the state of grace” (John Henry Newman).
Written by Maribeth Harper.