(Readings Jer 18:18-20, Ps 31:5-6, 14, 15-16, Mt. 20:17-28)
What do you think of when I say the word: Imitation?
Is it a positive image?
Or a negative image?
Imitation can mean all sorts of things. It can mean fraud, rip-off, phony, imposter, not the real thing. Imitation can also mean someone who is imitating something good, like the disciples of Christ.
In today’s Gospel, the disciples are confused about this idea of imitation. Aren’t we all at times?
I used to be a good imitator, a good imposter.
When I was starting out in the broadcasting industry 30-years ago, I was told I sounded like I’d been doing this for years. I was good at faking it. As someone who could fake it well, doors opened to a successful career as a broadcast journalist and eventually as the manager of broadcast journalists.
I was more successful than a 20-something or 30-something had a right to be. And then one day it happened. The rug got pulled out from under me and I tumbled hard. All these years, as an imposter, as an imitator, I started to think it was all my doing, my talents, my skills.
I worshipped what our parish mission leader Brendan Case calls the “unholy Trinity:” “me, myself and I,” instead of the Holy Trinity: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
My faith life was nearly non-existent at the time of my fall. After the fall, my wife sensed an opportunity to get me back into the Church and we started going regularly.
I started to talk to God and everything in my life changed. Everything changed when I realized that nothing I did would ever again be for my own glory, but God’s glory.
I started using God-given skills of imitation to imitate Jesus’ love, compassion and understanding in the workplace. I became a servant leader. I started to listen to God in all my interactions personally and professionally.
I went from being a fraud to striving to be a true disciple of Christ. This listening to God’s plan for my life has led me to the diaconate.
This week, our parish is blessed to spend time with someone who understands God’s call in his life. God calls Brendan Case to servant leadership, too. He calls him to be an imitation of Christ as he helps us all to open doors to a more fruitful relationship with God the Father, God the Son and God, the Holy Spirit.
If you haven’t had a chance to come to our parish mission I encourage you to join us at (9am at Henson Hall) (at 6:45 tonight at Henson Hall) and participate in an event that may change your life forever.
As we heard in our first reading today, the Prophet Jeremiah was concerned about the bad kind of imitation.
He had been criticizing the temple priests for being frauds, phonies, imposters by leading the people astray and into all sorts of evil things: idolatry, ignoring the plight of the poor and lining their own pockets with wealth.
As the voice of God, Jeremiah was sentencing Judah to slavery for their sins as captives in Babylon.
As you can see, the temple priests and power elite did not like what Jeremiah had to say: “Come, let us contrive a plot against Jeremiah… let us destroy him by his own tongue.”
Jeremiah was in a tight spot with his people for speaking the truth.
Sounds a little like Jesus in the end, huh?
As we heard in Matthew’s Gospel, just as Jesus was predicting His own death and crucifixion (heavy, heavy stuff), the disciples were bickering over who would get to sit on Jesus right and left once in heaven. A mother’s plea started the ruckus.
And then Jesus lovingly let ‘em all have it and in that moment shows us ALL the way to the Kingdom: “whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant.”
Jesus calls each one of us to be an imitation of Him in everything we do. Jesus calls us to not be phonies, but be the real thing as we do our part to bring about the Kingdom. Jesus calls us to greater holiness. Jesus calls us to pay closer attention to the poor and the marginalized and serve their needs.
The disciples were all caught up with the trappings of honor and respect in the culture of their time. It’s not too different from today’s culture. Is it?
But Jesus turns this thinking upside down as he says, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
So, as each of us become better at listening to the voice of God the Father, as each of us realizes God the Father has a plan for our lives and God the Father wants to make known the plan for our lives, understand Jesus will call you to be an earthly imitator of him in everything you say and do.
Be the good kind of imitation. Not the bad kind. Not a fraud, a phony, or imposter. But be an imitator of your Lord and Redeemer. Only by imitating Christ can we find true honor, true respect, true glory now and forever.