Lynne Cox, a famous long-distance, open-water swimmer, related a story of a typical morning workout off the coast of California in the dark hours of morning when she was still in high school. She could sense a massive, ominous creature below her in the water...and it was following her. Understandably concerned, Cox headed back to the safety of the pier only to be told by onlookers there that the sea creature following her was a lost, baby gray whale frantically searching for its mother. Over the course of the next several hours, she remained in the water in order to give that nascent whale someone to follow until it could be reunited with its mother. Gratefully, mother eventually returned. Cox described in beautiful detail how mama approached her, remained for a bit of time as if expressing her gratitude and then swam off, baby in tow to rejoin their traveling pod. When disoriented, that baby whale latched on to someone it felt would keep it safe and lead it to life.
The responsorial psalm asked us to pray: “Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life.” The baby whale chose to follow Lynne Cox and through her found its way back to its mother.
St. Paul asks us to examine whom we follow. Are we following the flesh or are we following the Spirit? Cataloging the various works of the flesh and contrasting them to the works of the Spirit, St. Paul presents us with a clear measuring stick.
In the Gospel, Jesus criticizes the Pharisees for paying too much attention to the outward observance of the Law and not enough attention to the heart of the Law. It is yet another way of asking the question. Which are you following?
Today we honor one of the earliest Popes who is known for his willingness to absolve even the most guilty sinners and receive them back into the Church. Sadly, his merciful attitude toward these sinners gave rise to the first schism in the Church, a schism that lasted eighteen years. Unfortunately, the Pharisees were not the only ones who could not remember the heart of God’s Law, a heart of love.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator