daily biblical sermons

Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Saturday, after Ash Wednesday, February 13, 2016
Isaiah 58:9-14, Psalm 85, Luke 5:27-32

Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.


"After this he went out, and saw a tax collector, named Levi, sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.' And he left everything, and rose and followed him" (Luke 5:27-28).

Here we see the sudden and complete response of the tax collector Levi, who is also called Matthew. When he heard Jesus' call, he simply stood up, left everything, and followed him. Again and again we see this reaction to Jesus' call. When Jesus called Simon, James, and John, they also reacted in the same way: "And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him" (Luke 5:11). In another version of Jesus' call of Peter and his brother Andrew, St. Matthew says, "Immediately they left their nets and followed him" (Matthew 4:20). And when he called James and John, the sons of Zebedee, "Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him" (Matthew 4:22). Here we see that they left their possessions, their livelihood, and their family.

On another occasion, "to another he said, ‘Follow me.' But he said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.' But he said to him, ‘Leave the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.' Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.' Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God'" (Luke 9:59-62).

Radical following of Jesus takes precedence even over family loyalty and obligations! It takes precedence over everything. "He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:37). Love and commitment to Christ must come before family obligations for a true disciple of Jesus. "If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26). Of course, Jesus does not mean to actually hate our family, but rather simply to leave them, in a radical way, in order to follow Jesus' call to be his disciple, to follow him, and to proclaim the kingdom of God, renouncing everything else of our former life.

Jesus called the rich young man, saying, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me" (Matthew 19:21). The call to perfection is to leave everything to follow Jesus. Our money is to be used as alms for the poor. "Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail" (Luke 12:33). If we use our money for the poor, we will have treasure in heaven. There are various ways of doing this; but if we seek perfection, this is what we must do.

Peter said, "Lo, we have left everything and followed you, what then shall we have?" (Matthew 19:27). And Jesus answered, "Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life" (Matthew 19:29). The hundredfold reward goes to those who use all that they have for the Lord or who give it all away as alms for those in need. This is the way of perfection, of true discipleship.

When the chief tax collector of Jericho, Zacchaeus, said, "‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold' ... Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house'" (Luke 19:8-9). Salvation came to Zacchaeus's house, because he is now going to give half of his goods to the poor. He has finally understood what God wants of him. Now he is saved. This great sinner is saved because he has opened his heart to Jesus, and he shows forth the fruit of his change of heart and of his conversion in giving away half of his great wealth to the poor.

The implication is that we should do the same. This is what a true disciple of Jesus does. This is what one who seeks perfection does. This is what is expected of a true disciple of Jesus. This is how we are to live as his followers. "So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:33). Jesus expects this radical following of all who want to be his disciple. There are different ways of doing this, but this is the basic principle involved for every true disciple of Jesus Christ.

This is indeed a radical call. The call of Jesus is a radical call to leave all to follow him, as did Levi and the apostles. Nothing should hold us back from giving our all for Jesus Christ. He should be the purpose and the whole goal of our life. If anything or anyone is an obstacle to following Jesus with all our heart, with an undivided heart, we should leave him, her, or it behind. If someone or something obsesses us, we should cut ourselves off from him, her, or it.

As far as our money goes, it is the Lord's. He has given it to us to use in his service. We are his managers and decide how his money, entrusted to us by God, will be used in his service. Zacchaeus gave half of his possessions to the poor. The rich young man was invited to give everything to the poor.

How can we do this? Some give everything away all at once and follow Christ in a simple, humble life of prayer and fasting and manual labor in the desert. They are monks in a monastery, in a monastic community that then supports them and gives them manual labor to do.

Others dedicate all their money to the Lord's service and form a plan to use it over many years in a ministry that promotes the preaching of the gospel in all parts of the world and in various languages via the internet; and otherwise live a very basic, simple life, renouncing worldly pleasures, entertainments, and recreational trips.

To do this, a basic decision has to be made to radically abandon a worldly life and dedicate our self fully to the Lord in every aspect of our life. It requires a clear-cut decision to get up, leave everything of our former way of life, commit all our money henceforth only to the Lord's service, and follow Jesus Christ, proclaiming the gospel. This call requires leaving the dead to bury their own dead, leaving home, mother, father, sisters and brothers, money, and possessions.

This is the Christian life. This is the life of a true disciple of Jesus. Nothing unnecessary is held back for our own pleasure. All that we have is only for the service of the Lord. Nothing is kept back for our own personal entertainment. Any person, activity, or thing that begins to obsess us, we renounce and avoid in order to have a totally undivided heart in our love for God, not divided by passing loves, pleasures, or worldly entertainments.

This is the radically new way of life that a Christian is called by Jesus to henceforth live in this world. It is a new way of being in the world. We seek all our delight in the Lord, not in worldly pleasures and entertainments, not in fine dining and worldly movies that make us forget God and divide our heart and thereby weaken our ability to experience his love and heavenly peace in our heart, which is the only thing that is really worthwhile in life.

If we are celibate, we can do this in a more radical, literal, and complete way than is possible in marriage, for then we can consecrate ourselves completely to God, and all our love can flow directly and only to him from a totally undivided heart in our love for him (1 Corinthians 7:32-34, 38). Celibacy also frees us from the financial obligations of raising and educating children, so that all our resources can be used for the Lord's service in proclaiming the gospel and helping the poor.


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