Discipleship, Not Membership – The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Week XXVI-B, 30 September 2018

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Week XXVI-B, 30 September 2018
Numbers 11:25-29///James 5:1-6///Mark 9:38-48

            Due to the increasing prices of most goods like vegetables and meat products, lately I have been buying most of our groceries at a membership club that offers sales and discounts.  But I have also noticed something so strange, really odd with the people going to these Costco copycats that have become an “R&R” destination like a park or a mall, literally a “pasyalan”.  See how people – not really shoppers – take “groufies” or “selfies” on alleys stacked with imported goods while their grocery cart only have a handful of products readily available in a sari-sari store.  I have asked some of the staff there who told me how some people go to their exclusive, membership-only shop simply for bragging rights in social media like Facebook.

            And there lies the big problem even in our Christian way of life:  we are so concerned with our membership forgetting the more essential which is discipleship.

            At that time, John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”  Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him… For whoever is not against us is for us.  Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” (Mk.9:38-39, 40, 42)

            Today our gospel is reminding us that there can be no compromises with our Lord Jesus Christ who can be meek and stern, open-minded and demanding.  For Him, the sky is the limit in everything that is good, regardless of affiliations; however, when it comes with evil, the Lord is very clear too that there are no excuses.  What is wrong is always wrong.  Hence, we find in the following verses His famous teachings that “if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehennna, into the unquenchable fire.  And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter heaven crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.  And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.  Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna.”(Mk.9:43-48)  Of course, these teachings are not to be taken literally for Jesus was just using a literary device to stress His point on the need to be good by getting into the very core or root of our sinfulness.  One of the important things I have learned during our 30-day retreat came from our 93-year old Jesuit director, Fr. Arthur Shea who told me that once we understand our sins, then we sin less often.  That is also the point of Jesus:  understand why we commit sin, then we learn how to avoid committing that sin again.

            When we consider the other teachings by Jesus these past two Sundays, we go back to that crucial point in Caesarea Philippi where He asked us all, “who do you say that I am?”  It is not enough to simply know in our minds who Jesus is, to belong to His group, to be “in” with Him though that is the first step.  In fact, Jesus came so that we may all be gathered into one again under God our Father.  That was also the point of Moses to Joshua in the first reading when he declared how God would want to “bestow his spirit” to everyone even those not present in the meeting because we all belong to God.  In John, Jesus mentioned how He cares for the other sheep not in His fold to show that indeed He is the Good Shepherd (Jn.10:16) who gathers His flock. It is clear that we all belong to the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit.  But that is just the starting point:  more essential than membership to Jesus is discipleship.
              Discipleship means professing Jesus is the Christ like Peter in Caesarea Philippi not once but every day in our life by denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following the Lord daily.  Discipleship means recognizing Jesus among the children and women, among the poor and suffering, preferring nothing for the love of Christ.  Discipleship means taking a U-turn from our sinfulness to truly follow Jesus Christ by being kind and just with the poor as St. James stressed in the second reading today.  This Sunday through the Eucharist, let us not simply renew our membership in Christ in Holy Communion but most of all reaffirm our discipleship in Him by going forth after the Mass to proclaim His gospel in words and in deeds.  A blessed week to everyone! AMEN. Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan 3022
*Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, Batanes after Typhoon Ompong, 17 September 2018.  Used with permission.

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