Sixth Sunday of Easter

Jesus said, “Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father.” How can we love Jesus? Here are three ways I have learned to love and follow Christ in the monastery.

The first is service. St. Benedict calls the monastery a school of the Lord’s service. In this school I’ve served as librarian, electrician, and finance officer. But Christ was never any of those things, so how have I followed him? Jesus was not a librarian, but he gives us the Words of life; he was not an electrician but he is the Light of the world; he was not a financial administrator but he offers us Treasure in heaven. Whenever we serve the needs of others we are following and loving Jesus who came not to be served, but to serve.

A second way to love Jesus and do his will is to follow him by entering into the mysteries of his life.
Are you tired and weary? Christ who carried and stumbled under the weight of the cross says, “Follow me.”
Are you angered by injustice? Christ who preached Beatitudes to the persecuted asks you to follow him.

Are you filled with joy and gratitude? Christ transfigured with glory on the holy mountain says, “Follow me.”
Are you unwilling to forgive an insult? Christ slapped and spit upon calls you to follow him.
Are you caught in habits of sin? Christ nailed to the cross says, “Your sins can be forgiven, follow me.”
Are you fearful of martyrdom? Christ crucified asks, “Will you stretch out your hands and follow me?”
Are you approaching the end of life? Christ ascending into heaven says, “Come, follow me.”
This is how the Church follows Christ, entering into the mysteries of his life throughout the liturgical year.

A third way to follow Christ with love is to leave everything. But what does that really mean? The apostles James and John, Simon and Andrew, left everything and followed Christ. Yet, after the Resurrection they still had their boats and fishing nets when Jesus appeared to them by the Sea of Tiberias and asked if they had caught anything. It took awhile before love of Christ led them to walk down the long dusty roads of the Roman Empire proclaiming the good news in far off places.

Matthew got up and left everything when Jesus called him at the custom’s post. But afterwards he still had his large home and could afford to throw a big party in honor of Jesus, inviting all his fellow tax collectors and sinners to the celebration. It was awhile before Matthew wanted most of all to take up his quill and parchments to write a love story about Jesus, the Gospel.

I once left everything to become a monk at the age of 19. Or, so I thought. But I brought self-centeredness with me. To leave everything does not mean primarily physical things. It means letting go of my own selfishness. It is a Hebrew way of saying with St. Benedict, “Prefer nothing to the love of Christ.” To do that I need a divine physician who is able to forgive my sinfulness, my self-will and self-centeredness. By baptism, Jesus, the divine physician, is at work in our hearts. And in the Eucharist Jesus gives us his own Body and Blood, to heal us from the inside out.

So, let us love Jesus. First, by serving others. Second, by uniting ourselves with Christ in all the mysteries of his life. And third, by preferring nothing to the love of Christ and his will for us, letting go of our self-centeredness and self-will. Then Jesus will bring us all together to everlasting life when we ascend with him to be embraced by our Father’s Love.