Today’s post comes from Fr. Michael Schleupner, friend of and frequent presenter/spiritual director for the Center. Fr. Michael shared this homily last week and we’re grateful to be able to share it with you now. Do you follow Jesus by practicing simplicity and grace? Share with us.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me,[a] is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. ~ John 10:27-30
To “Follow” Jesus
There is a lot we could say about what it means to follow Jesus. In today’s gospel, Jesus says: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” We believe that one of the ways that we hear Jesus’ voice is through our Pope, the leader of our Church.
Whoever becomes Pope is given the title Vicar of Christ. That means that the Pope is seen as representing Christ to us. Pope Francis is the 266th Pope. Six years ago, he wrote a letter to the entire Church titled On Care for Our Common Home.
In the letter, Pope Francis reflects on our obligation to care for the earth and for all people who live on this earth. He sees these two callings – caring 1) for the earth and 2) for everyone on the earth – he sees these as a significant part of what it means to follow Jesus today.
So, I want to share with you just two recommendations that Pope Francis makes in this letter. He proposes these as things that we can do and that are part of following Jesus today.
1. Live Simply
The first is that Francis calls each of us to try to live more simply. He recalls the saying: “Less is more.” He says that not filling our lives with so many things will allow us to appreciate much more the present moment and the things we already have.
Francis admits that simplicity is a challenge. We live in an economy that is built on consumption. We are always being encouraged to purchase more and more things. Francis says, and I really like these words, that we can live on a little and still have a lot.
This is especially true when we look for our fullness in family, friendships, and community relationships. It is true when we seek inner peace through prayer and when we just appreciate the part of nature that is right before our eyes.
I wonder if a way to live more simply is to make a habit of asking the “need” question. Do I really need this new T-shirt or the latest running shoes or different furniture or whatever it is? The “need” question will probably lead us to live more simply. It will also be good for the earth’s resources and, ultimately, for everyone on the planet.
2. Pray Grace
The second recommendation I take from Pope Francis’ encyclical sounds simple: he urges us to pray Grace before meals. Francis says that a prayer before eating first reminds us of our dependence on God. It makes us aware that all of life and all that is comes from God.
And then, this Grace also reminds us of our dependence on nature. We rely on nature for the grain that makes our cereals, for the plants that become our vegetables, and for the pastures that feed our cows.
And this Grace before meals also reminds us of our interdependence with everyone on this earth. We share an interdependence with those who pick coffee beans in Brazil, with workers in the meat-packing plants in the Midwest, with the fishermen who catch tuna, and with the truckers who deliver food to local markets.
So, the Grace before meals is a simple but very rich idea. It puts us in touch with God, with the earth, and with all others on the earth. I hope that this will remind us to offer a prayer before we eat. That will be one way of listening to the shepherd’s voice and following him.
~ Fr. Michael Schleupner
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