WHOEVER OF YOU DOES NOT RENOUNCE ALL THAT HE HAS CANNOT BE MY DISCIPLE
(A biblical reflection on the 23rd Ordinary Sunday, September 5, 2010)
Gospel Reading: Lk 14:25-33
First Reading: Wis 9:13-18; Psalm: 90:3-6.12-14.17; Second Reading: Philem 9-10.12-17
Now great multitudes accompanied Him; and He turned and said to them, “If any one comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be My disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build, and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going to encounter another king war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an embassy and asks terms of peace. So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple.” (Lk 14:25-33 RSV)
The poor, the blind, the crippled, the curious onlookers, the fervent disciples, etc., streamed from every street and lane to accompany Jesus and they formed a great multitude surrounding Him (Lk 14:25). But when He saw their enthusiasm to follow Him, Jesus warned the people what it would mean to become His disciples. They must be prepared to renounce everything – even family and possessions, and each of them must carry their own cross: “If any one comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciples. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple. …… Whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple” Lk 14:26-27.33 RSV).
These words of Jesus are as difficult to digest at the first decade of the third millenium. Verse 26, especially, may have sounded strange to people whose culture was built around the family and who believed that God’s favors came in the form of earthly blessings.
Although we might want to place our lives fully under the lordship of Christ, we often fear the consequences of such a decision. What will He ask of us? Will we be able to respond to His call? Will we be willing to lay down our lives for Him, when all around us we see people enjoying the attractions of the world, in form of hedonism, consumerism, etc.?
Jesus wanted followers who understood what their allegiance to Him might require. There would be “costs of discipleship”! Yet He provided them with the motivation to remain faithful: the joy of knowing that they belonged to Him and that He would never abandon them. Through their relationship with Him, Jesus gave His disciples a glimpse of the blessings awating them. And this glimpse was enough to sustain their resolve, even when they saw the price they would have to pay.
How can we follow Jesus just as unconditionally? The same way His first disciples did – through a close relationship with Him. As we touch Jesus’ presence in our prayers, in our readings of the words of God in the Scripture, and involving ourselves in the sacraments, we can slowly progress in the journey. At times, of course, we may shrink back; but God in His mercy allows us to begin again. As we look back over our lives, we may see that even in small ways we have begun to let go of the things of this world in order to take hold of the glory of eternal life with Jesus.
Short prayer: Thank You, Jesus, for calling me to Yourself. Help me to fix my eyes on You, and You alone. Empower me by Your Holy Spirit to put You first among anything else in this world. Amen.
Jakarta, September 1, 2010
A Christian Pilgrim