A Reflection from Fr. Jennings: Choosing Jesus – Our Master and Mentor
“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me….” (Matt.10:40)
Choosing Jesus: Our Master and Mentor
Yogi Berra, was a long-time star catcher for the New York Yankees (apologies to those who don’t like the Yankees). After his playing career, he was also manager of both the New York Mets and the Yankees. Over the years he became notable for his quirky and memorable quotations. One of these was his comment: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
We all encounter many “forks” in our road of life. These are times when we find ourselves faced with choices as to what we are going to do. I’m afraid we all realize that Yogi’s advice on these occasions is neither helpful nor realistic. All the “forks”, the choices we have to make over a lifetime involve taking one road and,… not taking the others that might be options for us. Such encounters with choice are sometimes quite easy, not crucial. But we also face many that are tough choices.
The difficult thing about opting for one of the “forks” is that when we choose one, we are also choosing not to take the other. We normally do not struggle with choosing between a good and a bad, or an acceptable versus an unacceptable option. The struggle comes when we find ourselves having to choose between one of several goods, or between two options, neither of which is entirely good.
These “forks” in our road require careful thought and discernment. They also require a willingness to be honest in what is best and a readiness to carry out the choice. This demands commitment and courage, a willingness to step out in uncertainty and risk. Little choices like what to have for supper or what to wear today, they are easy, not significant. But we are called upon to make many more crucial one, choices that will affect our whole life and the lives of others – life choices.
Those disciples who decided to follow Jesus had to make many such choices. As we find in the Gospels the beginning of these choices came with their initial interest in what they heard and saw of Jesus. This led them to a step into what we might call a conversion. While the Gospels present this step as a sudden change in their lives, it was much more tentative. First, they became curious about Jesus. From there the route would be long, with many steps and stages as they journeyed with him. Through word and action, the disciples came to view Jesus as their master, teacher and mentor.
As their faith in him grew, their commitment to him as the example and exemplar for life grew. Sometimes, it flagged and they turned away, only to return. Often their relationship was marked by doubts and resistance. They turned their backs on it all, only to return with new trust and commitment.
The life journey of the disciples is neither smooth nor straight. It is filled with uncertainties and risks. All the stages of their growth as disciples and friends of Jesus demand choices. And each choice has a cost. They had to give up something of themselves to become someone different as their relationship deepened and they became more like their master and mentor. As they hear the message and see it lived out in action, the disciples become new persons.
Every “fork” in their journey will see the disciples making choices by which they become increasingly identified with Jesus. In their own words and actions, Jesus will show forth as filling them with his Spirit. In the end, the changing, choosing disciple will become a master and mentor for others. This is how, down through the ages, our faith is passed on as a living and loving faith.
Real faith in Jesus is a relationship. It is marked by constant growth. It is never the same, day to day and it repeatedly demands choices, “forks” in the road along the way. Perhaps surprisingly for us we discover that faith, our faith is “caught” from others not so much “taught” by others, for it is a faith grounded on a person and that person is Jesus, the Christ. We live in relationship with him.