Jesus Our Shepherd

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
11 October 2009

Homily
Fr. Francis F. Baiocchi

A group of tourists was passing through a picturesque village when one in their number spotted an elderly woman in the town square. He flippantly asked her, “Are any famous people born here?” “No,” the woman replied briskly, “Only babies are born here.” There’s wisdom in her response. People are not born famous. Becoming famous, or for that matter, becoming infamous, is a process that only occurs over time. Becoming a true disciple of Jesus also takes time!

The young man in today’s Gospel is a good person. He wants eternal life, so he seeks out Jesus and asks him: how do I earn eternal life? He has observed all the rules from his youth; yet he senses in his heart that this is not enough. There has to be more to it. He’s right. There is more to it! Jesus looks at him with compassion, knowing full well the one obstacle to this man’s deeper commitment to discipleship: he is too dependent on money. So Jesus calls him on it: “You are lacking one thing: go, sell what you have and give the money to the poor.” Upon hearing this, the young man’s face drops; this is the last thing he wants to hear. He is holding on tightly to his money and is not willing to let it go, so he walks away disheartened.

There’s always a cost for discipleship. The further we walk with Jesus, the more we realize this. Earlier in our lives, we were content, as was this young man, simply to follow the rules. But as we continue our journey, we discover Jesus is calling us to a deeper reality: he is calling us to loving service of our fellow human beings. He is calling us to take care of each other, to feed the hungry, to shelter the homeless, to offer hospitality to those who need it. This is disturbing because it takes us out of our comfort zone. But discipleship with Jesus is never meant to be in our “comfort zone.” Ask anyone who takes discipleship seriously: Catherine of Siena, scolding popes for their misbehavior; Teresa of Calcutta caring for the very poorest of the poor -- sick people with infected, puss-filled wounds; Francis of Assisi doing what the young man in today’s Gospel wouldn’t do, giving away everything he owns to live a poor man’s life! Followers of Jesus leave their comfort zones to be what God calls them to be.

Can we do likewise? We don’t have to scold popes – although that’s not necessarily a bad idea! We don’t ordinarily have to clean infected, puss-filled wounds either! We simply need to put time and effort into the loving service of others. Our parish recently voted to support the Family Promise program. This is one option you might consider. After all, Jesus is calling us to feed the hungry, to shelter the homeless, to offer hospitality to the needy, and that’s what the Family Promise program is all about! The young man in today’s Gospel story is not satisfied with obeying rules; but he refuses to surrender his money, refuses to leave his comfort zone. Simply obeying rules should never satisfy us either. Jesus challenges us to loving service. The question remains: Will we rise to the challenge? Will we, or will we not, have the courage to leave our comfort zones behind? No one is born famous. No one is ever born a disciple of Jesus. It’s very hard work, but it’s what Jesus calls us to do.