Each summer my wife and I head to southern Missouri for the yearly Cerneka cousins float trip on the Courtois River. This is one of my favorite yearly events, as I don’t often get to see my extended family. The Courtois River, like many rivers in that part of Missouri, is mostly narrow and shallow, winding its way through beautiful Ozark country. Along the way, we occasionally see rock outcroppings and small bluffs along the river’s edge. Every now and then, you will find one of these small bluffs at a deeper place along the river. Often, my cousins will stop at these spots so they can climb up the bluffs and jump into the water. Since the river is deeper in these places and bluff jumpers can’t see too far below the surface of the water, some of the cousins will swim over to that spot to check for unseen rocks or boulders that could cause serious injury (or worse) to the jumpers. Once that check is done, the fun begins!
When we first started taking these trips and we’d end up at this spot on the river, I would choose not to jump, out of fear that something bad might happen to me. To my way of thinking, I was a lot safer if I didn’t jump at all. After a few years, I mustered up the courage and would join in the fun. In those moments, I figured I didn’t have much to lose. I was single at the time and was pretty sure I would be unharmed. There was no thought of tomorrow, just the excitement of the moment. As I grew older, though, and became a husband and father, my outlook on life shifted. I could no longer think only of myself. I could no longer disregard the possibility of danger or the consequences of my actions. My responsibility to my family had to take precedence over everything else. Actually, that’s not true. My commitment to Christ and His Church began to take precedence over everything. My vocation as a husband and father has flowed from that commitment. Rather than making choices in my life out of fear (I won’t jump because something might hurt me) or with no real sense of responsibility (I will jump because I don’t need to worry about consequences), I now try make choices out of a love for my God and my family . I now have the freedom to be what Christ is calling me to be because I am choosing to live for Him rather than for myself. I know that Jesus loves me and will take care of my family and me, no matter what life brings. It would be foolish for me to place any other priorities above that relationship.
In today’s first reading and in the Gospel, we have clear examples of people being directed to act against their relationships with God. In the first reading, seven brothers (along with their mother) are being tortured (eventually to death) and are being told they must eat pork, which would have been a violation of God’s law. Each of them refuse, and ultimately choose death, confident that God will someday raise them up. These brave men knew that obedience to God was far more important than their own lives. In the Gospel, the Sadducees (who deny the possibility of Resurrection) are trying to twist Jesus into a legal knot, by asking whom a woman might be married to in heaven if she were married to seven different brothers here on earth. Jesus reminds them, as he always does in these situations, that God is not bound by earthly laws. There is no need for marriage in heaven. Those who are raised will be with God forever. Nothing could be more important! Often, we can get tangled up in the various expectations the church places on its members. Why are there so many rules? Why can’t I do what I want? These guidelines show us how to live as disciples for Christ now. They also help us keep our eyes on the ultimate prize, which is heaven. Let’s all say YES and live for Him!