What Jesus Wants of Us

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

James Tissot (1836-1902), “The Exhortation to the Apostles”
James Tissot (1836-1902), “The Exhortation to the Apostles” (photo: Public Domain)

In the Gospel of Saint Luke, we get the story of Jesus coming home to Nazareth and teaching in the synagogue. The people come to bask in the glow of his celebrity. They took pleasure in proximity, in being able to say they “knew” Jesus. They knew his family.

It's like when we mention the famous people of high school and get the boost of affiliation, even if we've never met. Except Jesus does not desire familiarity, but intimacy. Jesus invites us into friendship, not a clique. Over and over again, Jesus invites the outsider, the one rejected by the rest of the world, into relationship with Him; the woman at the well, the lepers, the tax collectors and sinners, the woman who “everybody knows” is that type of woman, who washes his feet. All of these people, Jesus invites into friendship with him.

Even the apostles don't quite get it after spending three years in his presence. They tell Jesus to send people away to get their own food. They try to keep people from bringing their children. They ask to sit at the right and left hand. They want position, power, authority based on their following Jesus. They get it, but only once they understand that the position, power and authority they receive is for a life of service, a life of submission, a life of sacrifice that ultimately ends on the cross.

Today, the people of the Church are facing a trial of their own faith lives. Do we desire familiarity or intimacy? Being affiliated with the Catholic Church right now does not look good in the eyes of the world. We stand against many popular things like abortion, birth control, and any sex outside of marriage. We have the scandal of the child abuse and subsequent cover ups, which makes us suspect of our own priests, bishops, cardinals and (for some) even the pope. Living this faith life is hard, and made harder by the sure knowledge, many within are not following it. We are a Church of sinners, of hypocrites, of foolish virgins, of lepers, of Pharisees, of tax collectors, prostitutes, of the unclean. We have doubters, betrayers, and deniers. The witness of the saints and martyrs stand out because they held to Christ, when the whole world said, “That's stupid. That's foolish. Save yourselves.” Based on the world's logic, there are a million reasons to walk away.

The ultimate reason we stay, is the desire always to enter deeper into friendship with Christ, and that's only possible through the Eucharist and other six sacraments. “Lord, where would we go?”

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito says of discerning one’s college choice, ‘There has to be something that tugs at you and makes you want to investigate it further. And then the personal encounter comes in the form of a visit or a chat with a student or alumnus who communicates with the same enthusiasm or energy about the place. And then that love of a place can be a seed which germinates in your own heart through prayer.’

Choose a College With a Discerning Mind and Heart

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito, assistant professor of theology at the University of Dallas (UD) and subprior (and former vocations director) of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas, drew from his experience as both a student and now monastic religious to help those discerning understand the parallels between religious and college discernment.