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9th Sunday

When a good friend died, I rushed to the mortuary to sympathize with the family. Preceding me there by ample time, was a man who claimed to be a priest. My internal radar told me to be suspicious of the man. He didn’t talk like a priest nor did he behave like a priest. I was sure he was a fake priest. And yes, he was asking a huge amount of money to celebrate a Mass for my friend’s soul! Indeed, he was a fake!

The gospel reveals Jesus having a sort of internal radar. Jesus, surrounded by disciples, detected that some of the people around him were not really for him: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven… but did we not prophesy in your name, and did wonderful things and even expelled demons?” To these people Jesus has a stinging reply: I’m sorry, I really do not know you!

Jesus is imparting to us today the marks of a true disciple. It is easy to say we are the Lord’s followers. It is easy to memorize the prayers, perform the motions of religious practice, even maybe, become active in church circles. These however are not a guarantee that a person has truly anchored his life on the Lord.

The proof of following Jesus is not in words but in practice. The proof of loving Jesus is not just emotion but obedience. Are you really a believer if your principles are not carried out in action? Do you truly love someone if you continue to break that person’s heart? Jesus convinces us of the importance of sincerity in relating with one another and with God Himself.

A truly loving spouse does not deceive his beloved. A real friend listens to the advice of his friend. A good student follows the lead of his teacher. A conscientious worker is sensitive to the lead of his superior. You cannot prove your faithfulness and sincerity by words alone. Your actions, even the most silent and discreet, will manifest your good will.

I’m sure regular Sunday Mass attendees have no problem identifying themselves as good followers of the Lord. But we can also be fakes in our own way. We are in church, but our mind is wandering out there. We are physically present, not to the Lord, but to our friends for whose sake we have come . We hear the message of the gospel but we are not serious in living up to its demands. Come Ash Wednesday, we will beg for the ashes but will disregard the sacrifice of fasting and Abstinence.

Most specially, we are fakes when we say we follow the Lord and yet our lives do not conform to His will; when we are more comfortable with our sins rather than with keeping his law of love; when we refuse to give up our bad habits and receive His forgiveness in the sacrament of confession.

Lent is so near and Jesus gives us a way out of our fake selves into our authentic selves. Let us resolve not only to follow Jesus with our lips but with our whole lives most of all.