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Victoria Figueroa

13th Sunday in Ordinary time

"As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him,

“I will follow you wherever you go.” (Lk. 9:51-62)

I Want to Be a Follower of Christ

I want to be a follower of Christ. I want to be one of his disciples. I want to live in the newness of life, Just let me be a follower of Christ.

R: What do I have to do?

This song is sung at my parish often. It is simple and the lyrics are easy to follow. Sometimes the song will pop into my head and stay there for a few hours. I have taken the song for granted but when I read this Sunday’s Gospel, I realized that the song urges me to reflect and think about what is being asked of me.

In Luke 9:51-62, we read that Jesus was journeying to Jerusalem with His disciples to face His passion and eventual departure from them. This journey was inevitable as Jerusalem would be the place of Jesus’ trial, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. Therefore, Jesus sent a few men ahead to Samaria to scout for Him, but the villagers rejected His visit because Jerusalem was Jesus’ destination. The Samaritans also disliked the people of Jerusalem. The disciples were willing to use force against the villagers to defend Jesus, but He corrected them, calling them to a better way. Off they went to another village.

Along the way to the next village, Jesus and His disciples attracted the attention of others who wanted to join them. Jesus showed the passersby some “tough love.” He told one potential follower, who first wanted to return home to bury his father, to “let the dead bury the dead.” Jesus told another would-be disciple, who wanted to say goodbye to his family first, that “no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Jesus was clear on what someone would have to endure to follow him, and clear on the commitment needed to be a disciple.

As a follower of Jesus, one must be prepared to be laughed at and hated. But instead of fighting carelessly, be ready to “shake off the dust” and move on. Discipleship is not a one-time event but a succession of callings. One must set aside earthly baggage and completely and devotedly follow Jesus.

Here is a time when I got the call right: when I pursued a master’s in pastoral studies at a Catholic seminary. It took five years, including pre-requisite classes, but I did it. There were long study hours, papers, lectures, fees, books, group projects, and oral and written exams. I spent many hours working towards a degree that I could use directly. People made jokes about me attending classes, and some even stopped speaking to me, fellow Catholics included. Plus, people asked me how, as a Black woman, I could support an organization with a racist and sexist past. I acknowledge that the Church has been, at times, an advocate for people of color and yet, at other times unfriendly. At times, I questioned why I had entered the degree program, and considered withdrawing, but my gut told me to stay because our Church needs to train lay ministers of all backgrounds, and I felt I could make a positive contribution.

Then one day, I was conferred my degree. I realized that by persevering I gained respect and credibility. This was the discipleship that Jesus spoke about. I would be called to this discipleship repeatedly. I am certain there will be times in the future when I will have to decide between returning to bury the dead in my life or simply following Jesus.

Lord, help me with my decision-making so that I always choose to follow you when you call and not look back at what the world has to offer, choosing Jesus instead. Help me stay focused on you.

I want to be a follower of Christ. I want to be one of his disciples. I want to live in the newness of life, Just let me be a follower of Christ.

I want to be a fisher, now for Christ. I want to bring other souls to him, I want to help rid this world of its strife, Just let me be a follower of Christ.

What do I have to do? What do I have to say? How do I have to walk each and ev’ry day? Tell me, what does it cost if I carry the cross? Just let me be a follower of Christ.

Author: Victoria Figueroa, MAPS, Associate Director of Cultural Ministries and Coordinator of Black Catholic Ministry, Archdiocese of Detroit

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