Homily – Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C

“Follow Me.” Jesus has made this invitation to each of us. The particular way in which we follow Jesus is our specific vocation in life: myself as a priest, for some as religious and some who dedicate themselves to a single life in order to serve others. Most of those who are here, however, are called to the vocation of marriage.

Summer is traditionally wedding season. Many people are asking if I am busy with weddings. I am not. This summer, at St. Michaels – we have only two weddings. Many priests will tell you the same thing – less and less people are getting married. People instead are choosing to live together and even start their family without the sacrament of marriage.

What is fascinating is that many of these couples are not against marriage. In fact, the majority say that eventually they want to get married – just not now: “We can’t affort it right now, we want to be sure this will work out before we commit for life, we are waiting for our family to visit Canada to be at the wedding.”

This phenomena in our culture today reminds me of the individuals in our Gospel – these men hear the voice of Jesus calling them – they want to follow Him – but “not yet.” Let me do something else first. In the same way, these couples seem to have heard a call to marriage – they see themselves as being married eventually, but “not yet.” They are not ready.

Can we ever be ready to follow Jesus? When Jesus says, “Follow me,” he doesn’t tell these men where He is going, He doesn’t specify the challenges they will face or the sacrifices they may need to make. We can’t “get ready” to follow Jesus because we don’t know what we are getting ready for. Following Jesus requires trust that wherever He leads us, He will remain by our sides and he will give us the grace to remain faithful.

The same is true of married life. When two people promise to be “true in good times and in bad” they do not know how much good or how much bad is coming their way. That is why living together doesn’t prepare people for marriage. You may get to know each other a little better, but the person you know today is not the same person you will be married to tomorrow; they will change and you will change – you will need to get to know each other all over again. Living together may help you negotiate the housework, the thermostat and the toilet seat – but your circumstances will change – a loss of a job, the addition of children, midlife crisis – whatever you have negotiated today will need to be renegotiated later. No one knows what married life has in store for them – prosperity or poverty, an unexpected pregnancy or infertility – illness or disability. If we chose to follow Jesus, we must trust Him that wherever He leads us, He remains by our side and He will give us the grace to bear the difficulties and remain faithful.

So where is Jesus leading us? Our Gospel tells us one thing – Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, He will be condemned, will suffer his passion and die on the cross. Every vocation has one thing in common – it involves the cross, it requires sacrifice. If there is a way to prepare for marriage, it is to learn sacrifice.

This is why it is good for couples to live separately before marriage. Living chaste before marriage forces one to learn self denial, which will be needed often in married life. Having to pay for two rents instead of one teaches us not to compromise our integrity for cash, and to live with less disposable income, necessary to welcome children into the world. The loneliness of spending time apart prepares one for lonely moments in marriage when your spouse is not around or not paying attention. Living apart before marriage is hard, it requires sacrifice. But if you are not ready for sacrifice, you are not ready for marriage.

Jesus is calling all of us to follow him. And it’s ok that we are a little nervous. It ok that we don’t feel ready. Because we’ll never be ready. It will always be a risk to follow Jesus. It will always be a risk to get married. If Jesus is the one calling us, it’s worth the risk. Let’s not make up excuses like the men in the Gospel. “Lord I want to follow you, but not until next week.” Like Elisha in our first reading, like Peter and Paul and Andrew, let us sacrifice everything to follow Jesus wherever he leads us, including to the cross, knowing that He is by our side and will give us the grace to remain faithful.