“Follow Me” We each are called to follow Jesus in our own specific vocation in life. For most of you, this is the vocation of marriage.
Often I will meet couples for baptism who have known each other for many years, live together, and obviously have children together. When asked about marriage they respond “Yes….but not yet….we need more money, we need more time to know if we really are meant for each other or we need to wait for our family to travel to Canada.”
These couples remind me of the individuals in our Gospel today – they have heard the voice of Jesus calling them – they say they want to follow Him – but “not yet” they aren’t ready. In the same way these couples seem to have heard a call to marriage – they see themselves as being married eventually but “not yet.” They need more time to get ready.
Can we get ready to follow Jesus? When Jesus says “Follow me” in our Gospel He doesn’t tell these men where He is leading them, He doesn’t specify the challenges they will face or the sacrifices they may need to make. We can’t “get ready” to follow Jesus because we don’t know what we are getting ready for. Following Jesus requires trust that wherever He leads us He will remain by our sides and He will give us the grace to remain faithful.
This is true of married life. When Jesus invites two people to the vocation of marriage, they promise to be “true in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health” not knowing how much of each they will get. This is why living together doesn’t prepare couples for marriage. They may get to know one other better, but the person you know today is not the same person you will be married to tomorrow; your partner will change and you will need to change as well – you will need to get to know each other all over again. Living together may help you negotiate living under the same roof, pooling your resources – but your circumstances will change – a loss of a job, the addition of children, midlife crisis – whatever you have negotiated today will need to be renegotiated again and again. No one knows what married life has in store for them – prosperity or poverty, infertility, an unexpected pregnancy, a miscarriage – illness or disability, alzymiers. If we chose to follow Jesus we must trust Him that wherever He leads us He remains by our side and He will give us the grace to remain faithful.
Where is Jesus leading us? Our Gospel tells us one thing – Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem. It is in Jerusalem He will be condemned, will suffer His passion and die on the cross for each of us. Every vocation has one thing in common – it involves the cross, it requires sacrifice – offering one’s life for God and for others. If there is a way to prepare for marriage it is to learn sacrifice.
This is why it is important for couples to live separately before marriage. Living chaste before marriage forces one to learn self denial which will be needed often in married life, including those times when you will need to abstain during marriage. Having to pay extra to maintain two apartments instead of one, teaches us not to compromise our integrity for cash, and to live with less disposable income, necessary to welcome children into the world. The loneliness of spending time apart prepares one for lonely moments in marriage when your spouse is not around or not paying attention. Living apart before marriage is hard, it requires sacrifice. But if you are not ready for sacrifice, you are not ready for marriage.
Jesus is calling all of us to follow Him. How will we respond? Like the men in the Gospel will we have excuses to do things our way and not His way? Will we drag our feet telling Jesus ‘wait up’ I’m coming eventually? Will we turn away sad like the rich young man, unable to give what the Lord asks? Or will we be like Elisha in our first reading, like Peter and Paul and Andrew, ready to sacrifice everything to follow Jesus wherever He leads us, even if it is to the cross, knowing that He is by side and will give us the grace to remain faithful.
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