Lord, to whom shall we go?

New York's Archbishop Dolan's coat of arms bears the motto, "Ad Quem Ibimus" which is Peter's question to Jesus in today's gospel, "Lord, to whom shall we go?"

Homily for the Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Readings from this Sunday's liturgy)

Two really big questions staring us right in the face here:
Joshua asks: Who are you going to serve?
Jesus asks: Who are you going to follow?
Probably the most honest way to get at these questions
would be to rephrase them just a bit and ask:
Well, who DO I serve? Who DO I follow?

My guess is that most of us serve many masters.
The ones we serve are those who get
our priority, our time, our sweat, our energy and our focus.
For some that’s work; for some it’s a family; for many it’s school;
for others it’s a drink or a drug, sports or sex,
a wager or the Internet;
for more than a few it’s fear, worries, grief, or loneliness.
And most of us, whether we have a lot or a little,
are servants of money.
We have many masters, each of us, and our masters have a hold on us
and often manage our lives in ways we may not even notice.

Most of us follow many leaders as well.
Those I follow take hold of my attention, my desires, my politics,
my beliefs, my imagination, my pride, my mind - and my heart.
We follow many leaders, you and I,
and the ones we follow are good at convincing us
that each of us is really an “independent thinker,”
- certainly not given to being misled or fooled or taken in.
But as every con artist knows:
the easiest marks are those convinced they can’t be conned.

So, here’s Joshua asking, Who are you going to serve?
And Jesus asking Will you leave me to follow someone else?

Well, the Israelites knew the right answer to give Joshua
and the disciples knew the right answer to give Jesus,
and we know what the right answers are supposed to be, too.

But knowing the right answers and living the right answers
can be two very different things.
How do I live what I know to be right?
How do I come to serve what I know to be honorable and true?
How do I follow the One whose path leads to the peace I want?
How do I choose to serve the Lord? to follow Christ?

We’re all familiar with one way to try to do this
On Sunday morning I invite the Lord
to be my master and I promise to follow only him.
But then Monday comes, maybe Tuesday,
and before you know it - things are back to status quo.

But how about this for an alternative approach?
What if I decided to introduce the Lord to his competition?
I imagine myself... perhaps at a big conference table,
or in my living room, or at the kitchen table
or in the back yard for a cookout...
I'm meeting with Jesus -
and all the masters I serve and the leaders I follow...
“Jesus,” I say, “I want to serve you but I’ve got other masters, too.
Allow me introduce you to my work, my fears, my self-doubt,
my computer and my bank account.
Most of the time, these guys run my life, Lord,
and they make a lot of my decisions for me.
And while we’re at it, Jesus, please meet the media,
the entertainment, the desires and fantasies,
the ideologies and politics that map the paths
my mind and heart follow
- even if I’m not sure where those paths will lead me...”

What would happen if I were honest enough with myself
and honest enough with God to arrange such a meeting
in my mind, my heart, my prayer?

Of course it’s easier
to make the quickly broken Sunday morning promises
than to invite Jesus to meet his competition as Lord of my life.
The first approach avoids any honest engagement of the question
while the second strips away all my pretense as I stand before God.

Jesus knows that serving and following him is not always easy:
it often means dismissing other masters I serve
and following a path I did not choose.
And so he asks you and me this day:
“Do you want to leave me – or will you follow and serve me?”

I don’t want to leave.
And I believe you want to serve and follow the Lord, too.
So come to this table where he serves us
and strengthens us to say as his followers,
“Lord, where else would we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
You are the Holy One of God.
Be the master of our lives,
lead us on your path to peace
- and we will serve you.”


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