Follow Christ


11th August 1985

In the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.

In today's Epistle we hear words which at first may shock us, Saint Paul telling us, ‘Be followers of me as I am of Christ’.

How could he say, ‘Be followers of me’ rather than say, ‘Follow Christ whom I try to follow but not always succeed’?

I think, we must remember his life in order to understand these words. He stood probably (on the day?) of the Crucifixion, approving of the murder of the Son of God become the son of man. He is, according to Tradition, the young man who stood watching (over the clothes?) of those who stoned Stephen. He went from Jerusalem, out, with powers to persecute, to seize, to bring to death and judgment the Christians (?). And of a sudden, having met Christ, he changed his life and did that at all risks.

And this is, I think, what he means when he says, ‘Be followers of me as I am of Christ’: I was a stranger to Him, I have become one of His people. I was a persecutor, I am now standing side by side with Him, carrying not only the shame but the terror of it. Because if nowadays some feel shy, timid, cowardly ashamed of professing their faith, in those days, proclaiming oneself a Christian was tantamount to offering oneself unto martyrdom. And he gives us a picture of what his life had been, in the same passage of the Epistle which we have read: all he has suffered because he choose Christ.

Elsewhere he says, ‘For me life is Christ – that means that all that was Christ's is his, and all that was alien to Christ, all that brought Him to Passion week and to the crucifixion, he rejects. Nothing was left of life for him except what was in harmony with the Lord Jesus Christ. He accomplished what Christ had said to James and John: Are you prepared to drink My cup? Are you prepared to be merged into the ordeal which shall be Mine? – t h a t was for Paul life with Christ: to share His earthly destiny in all things, including martyrdom and death, if necessary.

And indeed, for him, whose heart had been conquered by the Lord Jesus Christ, death itself became an object of longing: didn't he say, ‘for me death would be a gain, because as long as I am in the flesh I am separated from Christ’? He longed for death for n o t h i n g to separate him from the Lord who was his Saviour, who was his teacher, who had become his whole life.

When he says therefore, ‘Be followers of me as I am of Christ’ he does not / (?) pride himself of anything; he confesses his early life and he proclaims the wonder which God has achieved within his life.

Let us reflect on this; most of us, from childhood, we have been united with Christ, brought to Him to be His own – but can we say that we have chosen Him when, being older, we could choose for Him or turn away from Him? Can we say that all our life is Christ, that anything which is contrary to Him, to His teaching, to His being is alien to us, indeed is repellent to us? Can we say that to live for us is to share with Him both His resurrection and the readiness to tread the way of the Passion? Can we say that we long for death because death for us is freedom and eternity?

Let us therefore reflect, time and again, on these words, on this call of Paul, ‘Be followers of me as I am of Christ’. And let us reach out to the depth and to the greatness of our vocation to be Christ's body, the temples of the Holy Spirit, partakers of the divine nature, sons and daughters of the Living God. Amen.

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