Listening to Jesus and following him
It was winter. Jesus was walking about the portico of Solomon, one of the open air galleries surrounding the large esplanade of the Temple. This portico, in particular, was a place frequented by people since it was apparently protected from the wind by a wall. Soon, a group of Jews gather around Jesus. There is tension in the exchange. The Jews bombard him with questions. Jesus criticizes them because they do not accept either his message or his works. He says to them in concrete, “You do not believe, because you are not among my sheep.” What is the meaning of this metaphor?
Jesus is very clear: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me; I give them eternal life.” Jesus does not force anyone. He only calls. It is up to each one of us to decide to follow him. We establish with Jesus this relationship that leads to eternal life only if we listen to him and follow him.
There is nothing so decisive to our being Christians as the decision to live as Jesus’ followers. The great risk for Christians has always been to try to do so, but without following Jesus. In fact, many who have moved away from our communities are people no one has helped so that they may decide to live following in his footsteps.
Yet this is the Christian’s first decision. It is the decision that changes everything, because it means to begin to live in a new way one’s adherence to Christ and one’s membership in the Church, to find at last the way, the truth, the meaning and the reason of the Chistian religion.
And in order to make this decision, the first thing one has to do is to listen to Jesus’ call. Following one’s own intuition or one’s own desires to live up to an ideal is not going to get one started in following Jesus’ footsteps. We begin to follow Christ when we feel drawn and called by him. Hence, faith is not primarily about believing something about Jesus, but rather about believing him.
When there is no following of Jesus that is taken care of and reaffirmed again and again in the heart and in the believing community, our faith runs the risk of becoming merely acceptance of beliefs, observance of religious obligations and obedience to the discipline of the Church.
It is easy for us, then, to be settled in religious practice, without letting ourselves be questioned by the calls Jesus addresses to us from the gospel that we hear every Sunday. Jesus is inside such a religion, but he does not draw us to follow in his footsteps. Without realizing it, we get used to living in a routine and repetitive manner. We need the creativity, the renewal and the joy of those who live striving to follow Jesus.
José Antonio Pagola
April 21, 2013
4 Easter (C)