Following in Jesus' Footsteps
Religious life means following in the footsteps of Jesus. In the Scripture readings for the last two Sundays in June, Jesus gives us an idea of what following him means:
“Then Jesus said to all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.’” (Lk 9:23-24)
“As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go’ Jesus answered him, ‘Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.’" (Lk 9:57-58)
In these verses from Luke’s Gospel, it does not appear that Jesus is making it very easy for those who wish to follow him. In order to do so, one seemingly has to be ready to give up his own life and be able to live without a home. Sacrifice and insecurity are certainly not often lifted up as values in this day and age. It seems that it is no wonder Jesus says, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few.” (Lk 10:2)
It is true that it is not easy to follow Jesus. To do so requires making sacrifices, being countercultural, having courage and trusting in God, among other things. Just last month, three Glenmary students renewed their Glenmary Oaths: I listened to them recommit themselves to practice the Glenmary way of life, which includes promises of poverty, chastity, obedience and prayer. To publicly profess these promises is courageous and countercultural, and it does require sacrifice and trust. In addition, four other Glenmary students recently committed to taking the next step in preparing to make those same promises for the first time; they will enter into the Glenmary novitiate, which is a step in formation that prepares them to profess their First Oaths one year from now.
For someone discerning religious life, these challenging words of Jesus may seem too daunting. Why and how can someone make such promises in this day and age? But our students’ witnessing by their Oaths can be confirmed by the Glenmary priests and brothers who have lived out those same promises for many years.
This year at our Glenmary gathering, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of two Glenmarians, Father John Rausch and Brother Curt Kedley. Their commitment to following Jesus as Glenmary missioners gives witness to the fact that living out the promise to follow Jesus can be done joyfully. Father John said the sacrifice is there, but it is like a mother staying up all night with her sick child. Looking back, it does not seem to be a sacrifice at all, but something he has willingly done because of his love of God and others.
Talking with either one of them (or any Glenmary missioner) can help someone discerning his own call realize that both Father John and Brother Curt truly and joyfully feel they have been blessed throughout their 50 years as Glenmarians—and that they would make those same promises again today.
If the words in the Gospel readings are causing you to wonder how you are supposed to follow Jesus and if you are being called to religious life, you can contact our office to speak with a Glenmary priest or brother, and to learn how his Oath as a religious has helped him follow Jesus and grow closer to God.
Read previous columns by Brother David.