The following of Christ                  (E.J.Tyler)

   We are called to love God with all our heart and soul. We must combat sin, fighting it to the death. We must be prepared to die rather than commit a mortal sin. But of ourselves we are under the power of sin. Ordinary human experience will teach us this - but it has also been revealed by God to be the case. St Paul tells us so quite explicitly in his Letter to the Romans. To achieve sanctity and the conquest of sin is a tremendous undertaking, beyond our capacity because of the power of sin into which we are born. Mankind, and each of us, by reason of our fallen nature so inclined to sin and in fact steeped in sin, has the need of a Redeemer. Our Redeemer has come. He has been given to us, and it is about him that I would like to offer a few thoughts.

   Think of someone you have known and for whom you have had great love and admiration. It could be your own mother, father, some relative or friend. It could be someone you do not know exceptionally well, but still, you feel great love and admiration for that person. Now, how would you go about describing that person to someone else, and help him to understand the reason why you admire and love that person? It would probably be very difficult to do so if he does not already know that person. You may use certain words to describe him, saying that he is very kind, wonderfully understanding, possessing an excellent judgment, being utterly dependable, courageous, and so forth. But the very best way would be to try to introduce him to the person you are describing. Having introduced him, the next thing would be to get your friend to dwell on what that person has done and is doing - to observe him and live in his friendship.

   It is impossible to talk about our Lord in any way that is adequate. The best thing is to get to know him by entering into a life of prayer based on the word of God coming to us in the Scriptures and in the voice of the teaching Church. In particular, if we wish to know our Lord, we ought read and prayerfully dwell on our Lord in the Gospels, reading them with the mind of the Church. St Jerome once wrote that ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ. Of course, the high point of the Scriptures is the Gospels. We ought read the Gospels over and over again in a spirit of prayer all through our lives focussing on the figure of Jesus, coming to know our Lord better and better, remembering that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Eucharistic Jesus, the Jesus who is now at the right hand of the Father, the Jesus who dwells within the Church as her head and spouse, the Jesus who dwells in the heart of each baptised person in the state of grace, the Jesus who in his fullest and most intense reality is the Eucharistic Jesus, the Jesus who is the most holy Eucharist, the Jesus made present at Mass and abiding in the Tabernacle. Our Lord at the Last Supper when praying to his Father said that eternal life is this, to know you Father and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. So if we know Jesus - of course, knowing him as his disciple and not just as a detached observer - then we already enjoy eternal life because we are in union with God.

  Consider the person of Jesus our Lord, the gift of God to mankind, the answer to mankind’s most serious predicament, which is his sin. He has brought to us redemption from sin and abundant new life, a share in the life of God through union with him in faith. He is the one we have been created to love and to surrender to. So let’s consider him.

   And let us begin our consideration of him with this. If we look at the universe around us, its vastness, variety and beauty, we shall get a glimmer of an idea of the greatness of God our creator. On him we depend moment by moment for our very existence. This one only God is the Father, and he is the Son and he is the Holy Spirit. The one God on whom all depends and from whom has come everything, is three persons, each person being this one almighty God. He is a pure spirit, infinite, we cannot see him and he is utterly different from the universe he has made. He exists necessarily and of himself - all other things exist in complete dependence on him. He is infinite in every way, whereas all other things are limited in every way. Now this one God the Father almighty sent his divine Son to become one of us to take away our sin, and he was born in the stable at Bethlehem. He grew up in Nazareth with the all-holy Mary his mother and with the great yet hidden Saint Joseph. Then he began his public mission. Consider him, this man - and he was absolutely man just as each of us is but without sin - this man. He was entirely and fully human, and yet he was God, just as much God as was the Father and the Holy Spirit. He always will be man for all eternity, and always will be God as he always was. Jesus is both God and Man.

   Just consider, this man who walked this earth and whom people knew in such familiar terms, was God. When people spoke to him, when they saw him as a child at school, when as an adolescent he helped his holy foster father with building and carpentry, when after his Joseph’s death he managed the business, when he finally left his home to go to the Jordan for John’s baptism and thus begin his public work, we are talking about a man who was the Son of God, God himself. When the devil took him to a high mountain and showed him the kingdoms of the world and said to him, all this will be yours if you worship me, indirectly the devil was acknowledging to Jesus that he, Jesus, could do virtually anything, even be political master of the world. Jesus did come to be master of the world, but in a very different sense from what the devil was proposing. As he would say to Pontius Pilate, yes, I am a king, but my kingdom is not of this world. This Jesus was great beyond compare. When we think of the great figures of history, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and a host of other figures that loom large on the canvass of human history, no one compares with Jesus. No one could compare with him in the work he undertook to do, which was to take away the sin of the world and to give the world the gift of  the transforming life of God. Jesus came to establish a long awaited, a long predicted kingdom, the kingdom of God in which God would be the ruler of the hearts of men. Our Lord said, the kingdom of God is within you. Our Lord came to establish this Kingdom in the hearts of his disciples, and he means all the nations to be be his disciples.

   We cannot think of Jesus enough. Think of him as a babe, a babe being presented in the Temple by Mary and Joseph, a babe being held in the arms of Simeon and gazed at by the prophetess Anna. The babe was God. Think of our Lord as an infant growing into boyhood, at home, in the synagogue with his parents, at the school. That boy was God. Think of our Lord at twelve years of age, having spent three days in the Temple at Jerusalem astounding the Jewish teachers with his intelligence and his penetrating questions. That boy was God. What a boy he must have been! Think of our Lord as a teenager, becoming a young man, full of wisdom and grace. That young man at Nazareth was God. What a young man he must have  been! Think of our Lord during his twenties as he approached the age of thirty, at some point assisting at the death-bed of his foster father Joseph. What a death-bed scene that must have been, with Mary on one side, Jesus on the other. Let us remember that Jesus was, yes, a most admirable young man, hidden in the obscurity of Nazareth and the Holy Family, but he was God. Imagine the life of that holy family, with Jesus a member. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, how wonderful it would have been to have known them. But so many did - presumably the whole village of Nazareth. Yet they did not know who he really was - but we do. We know who he was, and we by our baptism are united to him.

   Think of this Jesus, leaving his mother and his townspeople to begin his public mission by being baptised by John in the river Jordan. There he took our part, as if a sinner with us, being baptised by John. The heavens opened and the Father and the Holy Spirit made themselves manifest. This Jesus was the beloved Son of the Father, in whom the Father was well pleased. Look at Jesus in the river Jordan with the Holy Spirit resting on him in the form of a dove and the voice of the Father being heard. This Jesus, this wonderful young man whom John knew to be so good and great, this Jesus was God. Imagine knowing him, and imagine even being his companion! Soon after his baptism by John, John pointed him out to his disciples as the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. He was the one long awaited, on whom the world depended. Two of John’s disciples immediately began to follow Jesus. Jesus turned and gazed at them - imagine him turning and gazing at us. He does this every day, all the time. He turned to them and asked, “What do you want”, “Sir,” they said, “where do you live?” They wanted to  be with him. He said, “Come and see.” They came and stayed with him the rest of that day. Imagine staying with Jesus, being in his company, being invited to continue in his company as his friends, and to share his mission to redeem the world. They went away from that stay with our Lord knowing that he was the long awaited Messiah. One of them was Andrew, and he went to his brother Simon and told him that they knew the Messiah. Simon was brought to meet Jesus, and that began Peter’s life-long following of Jesus. He was the first Pope, and gave his life for Jesus in Rome eventually. But imagine being with Jesus, and having the privilege of being invited to be his friend, his companion, and a sharer in his mission. 

   And so began our Lord’s public ministry, his preaching and teaching in synagogues, in villages, in the open air, in farm houses. He taught the way to heaven. He cured the sick, drove out devils, raised the dead, quelled the storms at sea, fed huge numbers of people with a few loaves and fish. There was nothing he could not do - his works were mighty, mighty in the good they did as opposed to the mighty evil that so many other figures in history have done. No one ever did things like that on that scale. But his greatest work was soon to come, great beyond compare because it would expiate for the sin of the world and bring redemption to all who accepted in faith his offer of friendship. This man, and he was truly man, this man was God. His greatest work would be to die for each of us and for all mankind, past, present and to come. He would make up for all our sins, and he did this by dying on the cross in obedience to the will of his heavenly Father. No one else could do this for us, only he could, and he did it. As St Paul says, Christ suffered for me, he died for me, for me. He did that for me as if for no other person. He did it for all others too, but he did it for me.

  There never has been a person like Jesus, so wonderful, so good, so powerful, so humble and kind, so compassionate, so completely perfect in every way that is required to be human. He is the perfect Man, utterly pleasing to his heavenly father. And he is my friend, our friend. I have not called you servants, he said, I have called you friends. Just before he ascended back into heaven from where he had come, he told his disciples that all authority, all power in heaven and on earth, had been given to him. That is to say, he is king of kings and lord of lords, though not to be physically seen. He is the ultimate. If we are counted as his friends by living as his friends, then ultimately we need nothing more and no one else. Now this marvellous and wonderful Jesus is present with us constantly in our parish above all in the Eucharist, and he invites you and me to make a decision, to accept a wonderful offer, the offer of his friendship. He wants us to be his friend and to follow in his company through thick and thin in the living of a life faithful to his wishes, faithful to his way, and a life of drawing others into his friendship. He wants us to belong to him and to share in his work of bringing the redemption to all others. Salvation and sanctification consists in friendship with Jesus. Do you want to be saved? Enter into friendship with Jesus, and be faithful to it. Do you want to be a saint? Be utterly faithful to your friendship with Jesus, restoring it the moment it has been ruptured in any way by deliberate sin. If any one wishes to be my disciple, our Lord said, he must deny himself, take up his cross every day and follow me. That cross comes with companionship with Jesus and in trying to live a life in true imitation of him.

  So let us make our decision: I am going to renounce sin, and all that leads to sin, and seek sanctity in an ardent and faithful friendship with Jesus. I will do this in my ordinary everyday life, the life that God in his providence has given me to live. Jesus asks me to shape my whole life in accordance with his wishes, the way I live at home, the way I live in my workplace and the way I do my work there, the way I live and act among my friends, acquaintances, the way I live and participate in my parish, the way I think, every thing about me he wants to be governed by his love for me and my friendship for him. For us, life is Jesus - Jesus and what Jesus wants - because Jesus is my God. I will bring this friendship with Jesus to others, to others in my own family, in my workplace, among my friends, in my parish, wherever. I shall do my bit in life to help the whole world to come to know the person of Jesus and how he is the answer to the world’s needs, the greatest of which is redemption from sin and life with God. All this is what Jesus and Jesus alone, Jesus and Jesus alone brings to man.

   So now I begin! All for Jesus, Jesus my all. I ask my mother Mary to help me be a true disciple and lover of Jesus. I ask my heavenly father Joseph to help me love Jesus from now on. Let me never fall into a mediocre relationship with Jesus through unrepented deliberate venial sins and through doing nothing about the attachments I feel towards those many venial sins. I shall fight against sin and against all that leads me to sin, and I shall live in the presence of Jesus my Lord and my God day by day. I shall strive to be apostolic in my daily life at home, at work and in my parish, striving to bring others to the knowledge and love of Jesus. I shall make of my life a life of knowing, loving and serving him, so as to see him and be with him forever in heaven.