Welcome to the Polish National Catholic Church!
Call Us: (570) 346-9131

Following Jesus, Our Example

During this time of year, following the Solemnity of Epiphany, when the Church enters a period of Ordinary Time, a main focus is the calling of the first disciples and followers of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Within the Synopic Gospels, following the beginnings of our Lord’s teachings, Jesus encounters those who would be the first disciples and challenges them to follow Him.  In Matthew’s Gospel (Matt 4:18-19) we read: “As He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea – for they were fisherman.  And he said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fish for people.’”  Throughout the Gospels we know that Jesus would later challenge others as well, but each time, essentially with the command, “Follow Me.”

Again we know from Scripture that in a very real sense, these first disciples would leave all that they had and all that they knew to follow our Lord and Savior. But was only this physical aspect the extent of what Jesus meant in this command and challenge?  As we follow the ministry of Jesus through the Gospels, we realize that in fact the physical was only the beginning.  The disciples looked to Jesus as their example in all of the aspects of their lives: in how they interacted with each other, in what they thought, in how they acted and in what they taught others.  The disciples were called to “follow Jesus” in just about every aspect of living.

As a part of the Future Direction program for 2019: Discipleship, we are called to consider exactly how the concept of following the example of Jesus and then being an example to others fits into our faith life and faith journey.  Throughout the pages of Scripture, we see the powerful actions of Jesus in showing those around Him the way they are to act and live.  As just an introduction to this way of life, we will examine five aspects of the example of our Lord: Serving, Suffering, Forgiving, Living and finally Loving.  In looking to these examples, we can then begin to see how we can then be living examples to others.

A very powerful example of Jesus serving others is given to us within the Gospel of John when Jesus washes the feet of the Apostles at the Last Supper.  This example is so important in fact that the Church has enshrined it within the ceremony of the Mandatum to be celebrated on Holy Thursday.  “After [Jesus] had washed their feet, had put on His robe, and had returned to the table, He said to them: ‘Do you know what I have done for you?  You call Me Teacher and Lord – and you are right, for that is what I am.  So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.’” (John 13:12-15)

One can imagine that the Apostles were astonished by what Jesus had done for them at this moment.  Within this culture, the washing of feet was considered to be the obligation of the lowest of servants, it’s not something that even two friends would do for each other, let alone your master and teacher.  This example was not only one to encourage the Disciples to serve one another in every possible way, even the lowliest ones, but it also encouraged the Disciples to examine their own thoughts to see if in their daily living, they put themselves above others and thought themselves better than others.

For us today this is just as much of a challenge.  While we are often Disciples of Jesus who attend worship and contribute to good causes, have the teachings of our Lord, really entered our hearts so that we can look upon every other person that we encounter as a child of God and a true brother or sister in Christ?  This is the example that we are called to follow in Jesus and it is one that we need to model for those around us as well.  We must examine within ourselves what we think of others and then how we treat others based on this.  Are we following the example of Jesus as we strive to be examples for others?

Jesus is also an example for us in dealing with suffering.  And in this I do not only mean that suffering that we must endure when faced with an illness or critical condition.  It is rather the kind of everyday suffering that we must deal with in being a Christian, a follower of Jesus.  We are certainly all aware that the Christian life is not one that is highly prized by many within our culture or society at the moment.  This is certainly a change from many years ago and it seems to be accelerating in recent times.  As a response to this it can be easy to hide our Christianity and our Christian example, just to “get along” within our world today, but again Jesus shows us a different way as explained within the First Letter of Peter: “But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval.  For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in His steps.” (1 Peter 2:20b-21)  St. Peter here reminds us that Jesus chose to follow the way of God which led to the Cross and the forgiveness of sins not considering the consequences.  We too are called to follow in the same way.  Our only consideration must be the way of God which is righteousness and holiness.  Now we may be mocked and criticized for this action, and in our world today it may even go beyond this, but we must follow the example of Jesus to seek to please God first.

In the aspect of forgiveness, it is often difficult for many to follow the example of Jesus.  In our daily dealings with other people we often find ourselves feeling justified in our hatred and dislike of others remembering some real or imagined slight or action that was done against us.  But if we think about it for even just a moment, when we pray the Lord’s Prayer daily, we pray to God saying “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass again us.”  This theme is found throughout the letters of the New Testament; for instance St. Paul writes: “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience.  Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:12-13)  This reminds us that
following the example of Jesus is about allowing us to change and grow to be more and more like Him each and every day.  If we desire to have the good things that God desires to give us, to be a “chosen one of God,” to be ‘beloved of God,’ to share in His ‘kindness,’ then we must do the difficult work of being, “humble, meek and patient,’ as well as being forgiving.

Jesus is also our example in ways beyond just the individual actions of forgiving, suffering and service.  He is to be the model for our entire life.  Everything we think, say and do should in some way or other be modeled on the example and pattern of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  In the period right after the Solemnity of Christmas, the weekday reading for
Holy Mass are taken from the First Letter of St. John.  This very short letter is one that I think is excellent for us to read and reflect on in any season where we desire to grow closer to our Lord.  It has had a great effect on my spiritual life as it allows me to consider, not just specific actions within my life, but everything that I am about and everything that I think, say and do, measuring it against the example and life of our Lord.  One short example is this: “Now by this we may be sure that we know Him, if we obey His commandments.  Whoever says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ but does not obey His commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; but whoever obeys His word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection.  By this we may be sure that we are in Him: whoever says, ‘I abide in Him,’ ought to walk just as He walked.” (1 John 2:3-6)

Through this reading and many others within this letter, I find it a challenge to how well I am following Jesus.  Oftentimes I, probably like many of you, think that I’m doing alright within my spiritual and faith life.  But then I read the challenge of: “Whoever says, ‘I have come to know [Jesus],’ but does not obey His commandments, is a liar.”  Now certainly I, like many others, sometimes struggle with the commands of Christ, so it calls me to reexamine my complacency within my faith and to strive more zealously to follow the example of Jesus.

Lastly we can look to the example of the love of Jesus Christ for each and every one of us.  In this regard, I must always remind myself that when the term ‘love’ is spoken of here it is the ‘all self-sacrificing love’ that is meant by the term within the pages of Scripture.  This love is expressed to us in the actions of Jesus and brought to our attention in the writings of the Apostles.  Again St. John’s First Letter challenges us to put this love into action: “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.  How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?  Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” (1 John 3:16-18)  The fulfillment of this love, the following of Jesus in this example, causes us to consider all the actions of our lives.  It demands that we examine whether or not we are living and modeling the ‘truth of Christ,’ which is love, at every moment.

And of course as we consider whether or not we are following the example of Jesus, we must also realize that in following His example, we are becoming examples for others with whom we share our lives and those we come into contact with in our community.  I am led here to a powerful Scriptural reading from St. Paul’s First Letter to Corinthians.  I am reminded that in studying this passage while I was in Seminary many years ago, our Scripture Professor, Father George Dimopoulos said that if all of Scripture was lost and only this passage remained, it would be enough for the Christian Church.  St. Paul tells us: “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

In examining this passage it serves as an excellent way to see if we are truly following our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and being an example of His love.  If we are really being that example of love, we should be able to place our own name in each place where ‘love’ is mentioned within the passage.  How does it sound to us when we read it that way?  When we place our own name within it does it ring with truth, or are there places that we need to refocus our efforts?  We can in this way really examine our lives and ask ourselves, “Am I patient?” “Am I kind?”  “Am I not envious or boastful, arrogant or rude?”  “Do I not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rather rejoice in the truth?”  And lastly, “Do I bear all things and endure all things” for the sake of others who are around me and those who share my life’s journey?

It is these things that we need to consider when we speak of Jesus calling us to “follow Him.”  He still calls us today, and through our lives and example, He is also calling others.  Let’s be the ones who take the example of Jesus seriously.  Let us pray to Almighty God that we will follow in the footsteps of Jesus as we serve others, suffer with and for others, forgive others and through an entire life of following Jesus, ultimately truly love others.  This is the way of our Lord Jesus in the world, and it is the way to truly know Jesus, and ultimately abide with Him both now and forever.

Our Address

1006 Pittston Avenue, Scranton, PA 18505
Phone: (570) 346-9131
Website: http://www.pncc.org
Email: info@pncc.org