Over 478 people here are familiar with this diagram. I say over 478 because that’s the number of people who have taken the first level of Faith Studies. This diagram has proven extremely helpful for contemporary people in understanding our relationship with Jesus. It shows how He can be outside of our life, a part of it, or the centre.
The image on the left indicates that we don’t have a relationship with Jesus. The one in the middle shows how He’s a part of our life, one aspect among many, but we’re not completely committed to Him. On the right is a Christ-centered relationship; “this relationship is primary and central, influencing all decisions and every aspect” of our life (Discovery, Leader Guide, 66).
Which image best represents our relationship with God? Let’s take a few seconds to think about this. Even more importantly is: Where do we want Jesus to be? …And, where would He be when we’re under pressure?
Let’s use St. Peter as an example of having Jesus at the centre. When Jesus says to the apostles, “You will all become deserters” (Mk 14:27), St. Peter responds, “Even though all become deserters, I will not… Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you” (Mk 14:29,31). St. Peter loves Jesus passionately.
However, in the Garden of Gethsemane, when it’s time to pray with Jesus, Who is distressed and agitated, St. Peter can’t stay awake, even for an hour. We’re talking about simply praying with Jesus for one hour. So, help me out here: Is Jesus at the centre of St. Peter’s life? Probably so, but there’s something missing, isn’t there?
Then Judas and a crowd with swords and clubs arrive. It says, “One of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest” (Mk 14:47), and we know from St. John’s Gospel that this person was St. Peter (Jn 18:10). So, he’s trying to defend Jesus, but, in the end, deserts Him.
Then there’s an important phrase: “Peter had followed him at a distance” (Mk 14:54). So, is Jesus still the centre of St. Peter’s life? It’s uncertain now, isn’t it? Right after this phrase, he denies Jesus twice, and then says, “I do not know this man you are talking about” (Mk 14:71).
Here’s the point: Jesus is the centre of St. Peter’s life, but we have to follow through. You can’t deny the one you love! It’s the same with us: Jesus may be the centre of our lives, but we have to stay with Him even when things are difficult. We talked, three weeks ago, about how we’re sometimes embarrassed to be seen as Catholics and many of us were saddened at hearing this. Why? Because we do love Jesus. The example to which we should aspire is that of our mother Mary and the other faithful women. It said in today’s Passion narrative that they were looking on at a distance, but St. John’s Gospel tells us that they were right there at the foot of the cross.
During that same homily three weeks ago, we told the story of Scott who was embarrassed to be seen with his mother at school; and his father was furious. He said, “Scotty, your religion doesn’t mean a thing if it’s all talk. You have to think more about the way you treat people. Don’t ever be ashamed to be seen with your mother.”
Something interesting came out of this homily: One of our parishioners, Jack Ong, who isn’t even Catholic, told me that I should mention how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is forcing Canadian organizations to support abortion, transgender ideology, gay marriage, etc. In order to receive federal funding for youth summer jobs, organizations have to attest to supporting these things. (How many know about this?) But this policy goes against Catholics, as well as other groups such as Christians, Jews, Muslims and Sikhs. I was impressed by Jack’s love for Jesus and his desire that we all stand up for our faith. We will lose government funding because we can’t sign this policy, but this is part of what following Jesus closely means.
We also talked about how it was cowardly, hurtful and sinful to be ashamed to be seen with our family, or someone who’s different. Now it’s time to apply this same logic to our relationship with God: It’s also sinful to deny Jesus in public.
Now let’s say we struggle with this. How do we grow? Two ways: encouragement and love. Jack has encouraged me before to speak up on the Church’s teaching on marriage and this strengthens me. And I want to encourage you to speak the truth on marriage and not be afraid to make the Sign of the Cross in public. You’ll be okay!
To have Jesus at the centre of our life doesn’t mean we won’t make mistakes; we will. Don’t get discouraged; discouragement never comes from God—how many times have we said that?
Jesus never stopped loving St. Peter. After the Resurrection, Jesus asked him three times, “Do you love me?” and St. Peter had to say three times, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you” (Jn 21:15-17) to make up for the three denials. Every day, Jesus asks us the same question. The more we answer “Yes,” the easier it will be to follow Him in public. That’s why our pre-Mass prayer of St. Francis Xavier is so beautiful!
My God, I love you.
Not simply out of hope for heaven, nor from fear of eternal loss.
But because You, O Jesus, You embraced me when You embraced the cross, You took the nails, the spear, disgrace, and bore it all for me.
You took the sorrow and the torment, the sweat of agony – Even death itself!
And all for one who was your enemy.
So why, O blessed Jesus Christ, should I not love You well? Not for winning heaven, nor for escaping hell.
Not out of hope for personal gain, nor acquiring my own reward. But because You yourself have loved me, O ever-loving Lord.
So I do love You and will love You, and Your praises I will sing, just because You are my God, my great eternal King. Amen.
Here is a diagram of Jesus (He’s in the centre). Where would He put us? Outside of His life, a part of His life, or the centre? This question challenged even me, but I’ll prove to you that Jesus has us at the centre.
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” What more could He give us? He gave His only Son! Would you give your children? You don’t give your son for something that is only a part of your life. Remember, God didn’t make us the centre because we’re so special. He makes us the centre because He’s so special. He’s perfect love! That’s what love does! That’s why He says, “He loved them to the end… Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:1,13). Jesus even prays to the Father “that the world may know… that you loved them even as you loved me” (Jn 17:23). That is unbelievable. I was left shaking my head when I thought about this.
Jesus makes us the centre, so we make Him the centre.