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Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

Mt. 16: 21-27

“If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” What an incredible invitation from Jesus in today's Gospel – usually if someone wants to attract followers he or she makes the idea appealing! Yet there were some people who accepted His invitation.

They were His Apostles who gave up their jobs, personal plans and ambitions in order to walk with Him. Why when there was no coercion? The plain truth is that they, and we, fall under the spell of His charm and personality. I imagine Jesus to have been a very rare Person when He walked the Earth 2,000 years ago.

You would take note of Him if He had come into your company. The way He bore Himself, the way He looked and the manner in which He spoke would have caught your attention. There was something special about Him, something that drew you to Him. When He spoke you had to listen to every word. There would be wisdom and depth in everything He said. His hearers noted that He spoke with authority and people wanted to hear His words of wisdom.

There was no Teacher like Him. His fund of stories and His love and knowledge of nature attracted people to want to hear more.
The teachers of Jesus’ time would multiply the number of commandments people had to observe but He only had two - love of God and love of neighbour.

People sensed the genuine love Jesus had for everyone. He not only respected those in authority, but the underdogs and outcasts like sinners and lepers. He had no time for falseness and those who prided themselves above others. And because He loved everyone, Jesus tried to woo even the Pharisees - but they were a lost cause! As a result Jesus was not afraid to let others know that He thought they were wolves in sheep’s clothing, to stop the people He loved from being misled.

The Apostles were attracted to Him because of His love for prayer. They sensed how He loved His Father and would seize every opportunity to be in His company, even spending whole nights in a lonely place with Him in prayer. When they asked Jesus how to pray He gave them the “Our Father” as the model of all prayer.

His concern for sick people was unique. He empathized with them, and with a word or even a touch would cure them. He brought them relief, comfort, peace and above all His love.

The Apostles would have admired Him for His patience and for being able to know what they were thinking. And they would have sensed how He loved and cared for His Mother: the bond between them was unique. Jesus respected her and she not only loved Him but looked up to Him.

People were attracted to Him by the miracles. There was nothing He could not do and when He performed the greatest of them all – His rising from the dead – they were convinced He was God and He now had to be the centre of their lives.

Lord Jesus, we too have come to know and love You as the Son of the living God. We are attracted to You and so when You say, “If anyone wants to be a follower of Mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow Me,” we want to be numbered among Your countless followers.

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