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(Part 46)


November 7, 2013

Today’s readings:
Romans 14:7-12
Luke 15:1-10

Yesterday we saw that the proper response to Jesus’ call to discipleship is for us to renounce all. Why? Paul expounds on the meaning of being a disciple of Jesus. And what is that? We belong totally to God, and everything that we are and do is only for Jesus. “None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” (Rom 14:7-8). Our lives are not our own. We have life because of God. And we will have eternal life because of God. Both here and in the hereafter, we are defined only by our connection with God. “For this is why Christ died and came to life, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” (Rom 14:9).

Our mistake is when we live apart from God, or when we try to live with God in the picture, but only as part of our life rather than as our whole life. How tragic it would be if we thought we lived a pleasant life on earth, only to spend eternity unpleasantly outside of heaven. If God defines our life, then it is also God who decides how we are to spend eternity, after weighing how we spent our time on earth. “For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God” (Rom 14:10b). When we stand before God, “each of us shall give an account of himself to God.” (Rom 14:12). What shall we say then? That we did not give Him our all? That we did not truly strive for holiness and Christian perfection? That we failed to proclaim Christ and his salvation?

Now since it is Jesus who defines discipleship, and it is God who judges how we have lived our lives, we cannot, while still on earth, do the same for our brethren. “Why then do you judge your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother?” (Rom 14:10a). The Pharisee thinks he is so great as he judges and disdains the publican, but Jesus overturns such judgment. Those who do mighty deeds in Jesus’ name think they merit entry into the Kingdom, only to be turned away by Jesus, who does not know them.

Why is it important not to judge or look down on our brethren? Well, not only because they have dignity as children of God, but also because we need to be united to build community for the work of evangelization. There will always be something to criticize in others. But two things we need to bear in mind. One, we need to be careful, because we judge with human minds while God judges in a different way, and we certainly do not fully have the mind of God. Two, we need to work together, because the all-important work of evangelization requires many workers, who will fight the one enemy, and refrain from fighting each other. We go all out for the cause of Christ, and should not expend our efforts putting each other down.

Consider the work that we are all called to do, as disciples of Jesus, who should share Christ. We are to participate in the work of finding and bringing back the lost sheep. This work is so important that Jesus says, “I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” (Lk 15:7). Heaven rejoices, because there will be more guests for the great feast. “In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Lk 15:10). Even the angels are cheering us on!

But here is the sobering reality. It is not that there is one sinner and 99 who have no need of repentance. It is the other way around! Of all Christians, not counting pagans, only 1% can be said to already have their name cards on the tables at the great feast in heaven. Most so-called Christians are far from God and in serious sin. Many more are nominal or cultural, not really striving to live out the fullness of faith. Many who have met Christ and are striving to live Christ are doing nothing to share Christ.

So the Master sent out his servant to invite and bring in the guests to the great feast, but many of them are declining. Now Jesus sends out his disciples to bring in as many as we can. To do so, he empowers us to witness.

The invitation to the great feast has been issued. The evangelizers have been mobilized. The harvest has been prepared. When we finally gather in heaven, we will start the feast with worship, “for it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bend before me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’” (Rom 14:11).

And “I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God” (Lk 15:10), as well as all the saints. May we be counted among them.

Onward to the New Evangelization!

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