By Father Alonzo Cox
Very recently someone asked me, “What do you enjoy the most about being Catholic?” I have never been asked a question like that before. There was so much going through my mind when trying to answer the question. But I believe that this person, who is a Catholic themself, was looking for a specific answer to that question. I, therefore, went down the list of things I enjoy the most about being Catholic.
I then asked this person the same question. Without hesitation, this person answered by saying, “what I enjoy the most about being Catholic is that I have a multitude of saints in heaven praying and interceding for me.”
What a beautiful and profound answer to such a question. As Catholics we know that the saints in the kingdom of heaven are praying for us. We are encouraged to ask for their intercession, as we continue the journey here on this earth to build up the kingdom of God.
Our second reading today, from the letter to the Hebrews speaks of us as being surrounded by a cloud of witnesses.
What a beautiful image for us to reflect upon. We are surrounded by those who have gone before us, some of whom shed their blood professing their faith in Christ Jesus. We are surrounded by those who lived lives of holiness, striving each day to bring the light and love of Christ to all whom they encountered. It is their witness of faith that inspires us each day to keep our eyes fixated on Christ, the great High Priest. These witnesses did not live perfect lives, but essentially tried their very best to carry out the mission of Christ, that is to persevere in running the race.
In our gospel passage, Jesus uses some strong and dramatic imagery for us to reflect upon when it comes to discipleship. Being a disciple of Christ is not easy. It can come with many implications, as the Lord says in the gospel. It can cause division, anger and rejection. It is clear throughout the scriptures that Jesus himself experienced these implications, and he ultimately prepares us for them as well. We must grow as strong disciples of the Lord, allowing the Holy Spirit to strengthen and empower us to run the race and to never give up.
Our Lord endured the agony of the cross, so that we, his faithful followers may be saved. We must not burden ourselves with anything that would distract us from the glory of the cross of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We know that from the darkness of Good Friday, comes the light of Easter Sunday. We are reminded that we must not lose heart but continue to grow in the love and mercy of Jesus Christ. The Lord knows that many of us have heavy crosses to bear but as the psalmist says, the Lord always comes to our aid.
What do you enjoy the most about being Catholic? In addition to the cloud of witnesses interceding for me, I would add being a member of the mystical Body of Christ, lifting one another up through prayer. It is only through prayer that we will one day join the multitude of witnesses that pray for us. May we continue to grow as disciples of the Lord, following him closer to the eternal kingdom that awaits us.
Readings for Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10
Father Cox is the pastor of St. Martin de Porres Parish, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and coordinator for the vicariate of Black Catholic Concerns for the Diocese of Brooklyn.