November 4, 2020
by Andy Alexander, S.J.
Creighton University's Collaborative Ministry Office
click here for photo and information about the writer

Memorial of Saint Charles Borromeo, bishop
Lectionary: 487

Philippians 2:12-18
Psalm 27:1, 4, 13-14
Luke 14:25-33

Praying Ordinary Time

St. Charles Borromeo from Vatican News

Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work
. ...
Do everything without grumbling or questioning. Philippians 2

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? Psalm 27

Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost
to see if there is enough for its completion?
 Luke 14

These are marvelous readings for the times in which we find ourselves. Paul says it wonderfully. While we are about working out our salvation, it is God who works in us to desire and accomplish what we do. It is the right balance of grace working within us. We fail, if we try to do it all ourselves. It fails if we don't do our part.

The psalmist recognizes that with the Lord as my light and my salvation, fear is useless. In fact, fear is the reason I struggle to let God be light for my path to a salvation that is offered me.

Jesus wants us to be his disciples, closer to him than to anyone, to any thing else. He wants to be at the center of our hearts. He knows this will involve taking up crosses to follow him that completely. He isn't just talking about enduring crosses that come our way. We surely do that. He's talking about taking up a cross that has discipleship with him written all over it.

And, Jesus talks about assessment and preparation. He advises us not to try to be his disciple without really choosing it and planning for it. I wouldn't try to be a best friend to someone, to enter into a marriage or to take on a big responsibility, without realizing it is going to take generosity, freedom and hard work to do it well. We've all heard people who have struggled with commitments, with the words, "I didn't know it would be this challenging." Jesus wants us to know what a relationship with him will involve. So he asks us to consider what else has possession of our hearts. He asks us to assess if we have what it takes. This is where the desire comes in. We know from our human experience that we really can do what we really want. The assessment is whether I'm desireing the right things. Re-alighning my priorities - the things I keep finding myself choosing, doing, wanting more of - that aren't part of my relationship with Jesus come to our attention. We may discover some things I treasure and value which are opposed to my relationship with Jesus. It takes real reflection and assessment to do this.

Jesus is helping us see that we can't simply say, "Of course, I want to be your follower," without really preparing for what that will mean. St. Ignatius helps us with this in the Spiritual Exercises when he invites us to desire a relationship with Jesus which is free from all attachments, and desires not only to be with him, but to be more like him. Knowing that we might not be there fully, Ignatius invites us to "ask for the desire to desire it." He suggests we more closer than we are. He suggests that it is in the asking that we name our desire and focus ourselves on desiring it more deeply. He's suggesting we open ourselves more completely to making a space in our hearts to recieve these new, deeper desires.

Dear Lord, Jesus. I so want to be your disciple. I am so very grateful for your love, your patience, your mercy, your accompanying me on my journey. I want to say "yes" more completely, with more commitment, but with more affection, more passion. I want to be prepared to take up whatever you ask of me, so that I can be closer to you, with you, in all I am and do, and to imitate you more completely. Help me, please, by renewing, refreshing, strengthening these desires in me. I want to know, with your help, that whatever sacrifice greater freedom requires, I will experience a peace and a joy that nothing else in the world can give. And, Lord, if it be your desire for me, let me be a witness and an example for others that your love can transform even a heart like mine. I ask this with a growing attraction to your way developing within me and a growing trust in your promises.

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