The Challenge and Reward of Discipleship
In today’s Gospel, Jesus interacts with his disciples, seeking their understanding and insight regarding His mission – and even helping them prepare for the ultimate sacrifice of His Life! The Apostle Peter is presented as a spokesperson for the group, and his interaction with Jesus prompts Jesus to at one moment bless Peter for his statement of faith and later scold him for his limited view of Jesus’ mission. Peter wanted to see Jesus as a powerful, prestigious Messiah…yet that was not to be. Later, in Jesus’ Resurrection appearances, Peter made his profession of faith in Jesus and truly became the "rock" of the new Church — a model disciple.
The call of Jesus touched the heart of the 19th century saint, St. John Mary Vianney. He is especially known for his gracious and generous ministry of the Sacrament of Reconciliation at his parish in Ars, France — regularly spending numerous hours sharing God’s love through the Sacrament with thousands of penitents who traveled great distances to experience those few graced moments with him. His loving ministry flowed from an intense spiritual life based on prayer and mortification. St. John Mary Vianney truly helped many have the "clean heart," and the joy that accompanies such a change of heart. Recognizing his priestly zeal and deep spiritual life, Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 named him patron of priests worldwide.
Jesus and St. John Mary Vianney invite us to reflect: How do we see the person of Jesus? How are we helping build up the Church? What human weakness limits our discipleship? Have we been credible agents of Jesus’ love and forgiveness in our day and age? Or have we been more the "grumblers" mentioned in our first reading from the Book of Numbers? Like St. John Mary Vianney, do we zealously and tirelessly give of ourselves in service to our sisters and brothers?
May Jesus utter his words of blessing upon each of us as we live our faith!
And, pray this day for priests — active, retired, deceased — and for those discerning a priestly or religious vocation: for a deepening faith, and a greater love. Together, let us build up the Church.
Fr. John Schork, C.P. is the local leader of the Passionist community in Louisville, Kentucky.