November 6, 2013
Today’s gospel: Luke 14:25-33
Yesterday we saw how those invited to the great feast declined to go, because they had to attend to family or to work. Because these are often the excuses of good people why they cannot more fully respond to the call to discipleship, Jesus today speaks bluntly. “If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Lk 14:26). Wow!
First notice that being a disciple of Jesus is one’s option or choice. Jesus calls us, but it is up to us to respond. He does not force us, even though this is the most important thing in his heart, for us to go to him, and he knows this is the best thing for us.
But IF we do come to him, then, knowing our attachment to family (and to work), he then tells us to “hate” the relatives closest to us. This is shocking, but we need to understand that in Semitic usage, to “hate” just means to “love less.” In other words, Jesus is our highest and greatest priority, and following him demands total dedication and commitment. Nothing, not even the important aspects of family and work, which are God’s gifts to us, can or should be at the same level. God first, everything else second.
When people meet Christ and truly get to know Christ, they usually experience an emotional high. But after meeting and starting to know Christ, one is then called upon to live Christ, that is, to become his disciple, to strive to be like him, to follow in his footsteps. So Jesus says, if you want to come to me, know what the cost will be. It will not just be an emotional high. It will not just be roses, but will be thorns as well. So have a realistic assessment of the hardships and costs (Lk 14:28-32).
In fact, Jesus points us to the cross. “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Lk 14:27). Now the cross is a fixture of Christian life. Jesus on the cross is in our churches, on our rosaries, in art and statues. But it has become so commonplace that it has lost its true meaning for many Christians. Many even wear crosses just as a chic adornment or accessory. So we know Jesus went to the cross, but we are not aware that we too are to take up our own cross. When we truly follow Jesus, especially as we start to share Christ, we can expect opposition, oppression and persecution. There will be suffering and pain. Even as we “hate” those closest to us, we will see that it would actually be our closest relatives who will misunderstand, oppose and actually hate us for what we say or do.
So everyone is faced with a hard choice. Even as one desires to follow Jesus, thinking he can just add to the many blessings he already has, he finds out that it becomes a choice between Jesus and family, between Jesus and work or livelihood. In fact, it becomes a choice between Jesus and everything else. “In the same way, everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” (Lk 14:33). We are to renounce all that is near and dear to us, so that what is left is only Jesus.
Such is the call of the Kingdom. Such is the work of the Kingdom. Such is the importance of disciples, who by their lives will witness to Jesus, and who by their labors will bring in the harvest. It will be extremely difficult and challenging work, with great opposing forces. We must know what we are getting into, we must be willing not just to give our time, talent and treasure, but to give up everything for the sake of Jesus. If so, then we can present ourselves to Jesus, saying, I do want to come to you, I do want to serve you, I will follow you all the way, even to the cross.
Onward to the New Evangelization.
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God bless you.
“For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.” (Phil 1:21)