No White Flags! Around these parts we are very familiar with this saying because it's associated with Steve Gleason and his foundation that fights ALS. Gleason, the former Saints star who will always be remembered for that blocked punt when the Dome was reopened after Katrina, wanted a saying that represented no excuses, never give up, never surrender while demonstrating determination.
Excuses - we all make them, in fact we make them all the time. The great basketball coach, John Wooten, from UCLA fame, said this about excuses: never make excuses; your friends don't need them and your foes will never believe them.
Still we make excuses.
As people of faith, when it comes to following Jesus with determination, there are no excuses.
Today's Gospel gives us two distinct images the first being that of Jesus. We see Jesus determined and resolute, on his way to Jerusalem. He is also obedient to the will of His Father. Jerusalem of course is where he will return to fulfill his sacred mission that includes death and resurrection. No excuses, Jesus is determined to return to Jerusalem; and by the way, we will go through Samaria. Now Jesus knows that Samaritans don't like Jews and Jews don't really like Samaritans still he is determined to go forward. In Samaria he was not welcomed and probably endured prejudice and judgement, as evidenced by the reaction of James and John. Yet Jesus knows this pales in comparison to the reception he will ultimately receive in Jerusalem. In Jerusalem Jesus knows that he will endure betrayal, abandonment, physical torture, suffering and death on a cross. Still, Jesus is determined, no excuses, no white flags.
Now the other image in today's Gospel are those who either say they will follow Jesus or invited by Jesus to follow him. Jesus surely wants followers but what he really wants is disciples. The life of a disciple is one that Jesus himself models for us; a life with no excuses. Jesus may say to be my disciple your physical well being could be less than that of foxes and birds. Jesus may say to be my disciple the urgency of the Gospel is more demanding than even burying parents. Jesus may say to be my disciple is immediate and urgent and there may be no time for good-byes. Jesus sure knew how to make a point; after all burying others is a corporal work of mercy and obeying parents is a commandment. Jesus makes the point that there is no room or time to make excuses.
If we claim to be a disciple of Jesus will we truly follow Him come what may? Will we affirm our calling first received at our Baptism or will we add excuses to our years? And if we indeed claim to follow Christ will we follow His Bride, the Holy Catholic Church and all she teaches? Now I have made my fair share of excuses but I have heard plenty in my years as a Deacon. Does it really matter if we just live together, we don't believe in marriage? Does it really matter if we baptize the baby; let them make up there own decision when older? I'm spiritual but not religious; does it matter if I go to Mass or not? I don't like confession because I can just talk to God and don't need a Priest. Why should I help that homeless guy, he will probably drink it all anyway? And now, in an ever increasing secular and relativistic world, we hear every kind of excuse why abortion is ok, why it isn't even a baby, all kinds of marriage is ok, even between same-sex partners, it's my business concerning birth control and I could go one.
Yet despite these excuses God always offers hope and mercy. Any one, despite their excuses, can repent and return to the teachings of Jesus and His Church. These times call for deeper prayer, deeper spiritual reflection, fasting, abstinence, and even spiritual reparation for these harmful excuses. These times call for disciples, for no excuses, for no white flags.
So we go forward today from here with hope and encouragement that all can and will return to God and be resolutely determined to be a disciple. Let us be further encouraged with these words; a poem by Annie Johnson Flint:
God gives more grace when the burdens grow greater; God sends more strength when the labors increase. To added affliction He adds His mercy; to multiplied trials He multiplies peace. His love has no limit, His grace has no measure; His power has no boundary known unto men. For out of His infinite riches in Jesus, God gives and gives an gives again.
No white flags
Be a disciple