I don’t know anyone who would say no to something free. You walk into the store and see buy one and get one free. We all bring the two things up the checkout; proud of ourselves because we saved a few bucks……but, how many times do we read the fine print or get to the register and find out….yes it is free…after filling out the paper work to get a rebate we will have to wait for for two – three weeks….So, in reality, it was not free. We have to work for the rebate. At that moment, I have a discussion in my own head….Do I really want to put the time and energy into saving a few cents?
St Paul in in the second reason comes to the conclusion that he has received freely the grace of God won by the Cross of Christ; but, it was a gift that held a responsibility. “I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it!” Paul, by saying yes to the Lord, had the responsibility to tell others about Jesus. Being a disciple was not to keep the gift to himself, but a mandate to share it with others.
We also see this in the story of the healing of Simon’s mother in law. You would think that that since she was sick, they would have waited on her. Yet, she got up and waited on them. The writer of the Gospel is driving home the point that there is a mandate to serve if we accept Jesus into our hearts and commit ourselves to him. I think too often in the Church there is a mistake, like seeing a sign for something free. Yes, the grace of God is free; the gift of faith is free; but, it is given to us with responsibility. The responsibility to worship; the responsibility to serve; the responsibility to share what we have received so more can become disciples of Jesus.
We have an example of the 21 Coptic young men from Libya who were martyred for the Faith in 2015; three years ago. Their average age was 21 or so. When asked to deny Christ; to deny that they were disciples, they all refused. They knew the responsibility and the risk. However, like St. Paul, they did not shirk the responsibility even if their service to the rest of us would be to be witnesses; to be martyrs. The free gift of their faith was tested in a way that most of us will never know; and they won the crown of victory and stand before us today as a sign that to be Christian has responsibilities.
My brothers and sister, Lent will begin a week from this coming Wednesday. This time of inward reflection is a time to reflect on how well we live as disciples. The reason we exist as a Church and a parish is to be disciples and invite others to our way of life. Yes, the gift of our faith is free. The grace of the cross is free. But, the gift demands a response. The gift requires a mission.
Pray with me
Like Paul and our ancestors in faith, you have freely given us the gift of our faith and the gift of discipleship. May we realize that like Paul that we have the obligation to proclaim you to the world. May we realize that if we accept you into our life’s we have the mandate of Simon’s mother in law to serve. May we like the Coptic martyrs stand firm in our faith; no matter what. May the upcoming season of Lent offer us the grace to recommit ourselves to the mandate of the Gospel: to go and make disciples of all the nations in your Name and to serve the world as your disciples.