Wisdom 9:13-18b; Philemon 9b-10, 12-17; Luke 14:25-33
Dear friends! Dear friends! Three men were arguing over whose profession was the oldest in the world. The surgeon said his was. “For the carving of Eve from the side of Adam,” he said, “was a surgical operation.” “No way,” retorted the engineer. “To create the world in six days out of chaos was an engineering job.” The politician smirked and asked, “Who do you think created the chaos?
Jesus would make a very poor politician. He doesn’t tell us things we like to hear. He tells it like it is. He tells us it will not always be easy if we go with him. In today’s gospel Jesus talks about discipleship. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem where he would be crucified. But the crowd thought that he was going to Jerusalem to drive the Roman army out of Israel and reestablish the old Davidic kingdom of Israel. Looking at the cheering masses, however, Jesus frankly put before them the four conditions for discipleship.
First, He said, “If anyone 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.” This scripture passage in Luke puzzles a lot of people. Jesus had been recommending that his followers love everybody –including their enemies–suddenly announcing that no one could be his disciple unless he hated his own family? Here, when Jesus said “hate your family,” he was talking about spiritual detachment, the ability to put God first, before other relationships and before self-interest. Without such detachment, one does not have the ability truly to follow Jesus.
2) “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Taking up our own cross does not mean seeking out suffering. Jesus did not seek out his cross; he took on himself in obedience to the Father what men put on his shoulders and with his obedient love transformed it from an instrument of torture into a sign of redemption and glory. Jesus did not come to make human crosses heavier, but rather to give them meaning. It has been rightly said that “whoever looks for Jesus without the cross will find the cross without Jesus,” that is, he will certainly find the cross but not the strength to carry it.
3) We must calculate the cost of discipleship: Using the two parables of the tower-builder and the king defending his country, Jesus says: think long and hard about Christian discipleship before a decision is made. Perhaps these parables also illustrate that discipleship is not a one-time decision and that the commitment involved needs to be an ongoing decision. It’s not enough to give top priority to God. We must also live out that priority once we’ve made it. It’s one thing to put God first in your life. It’s quite another thing to live out that decision.”
4) The fourth condition we hear the phrase, “whoever does not renounce all of his possessions and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.” When Jesus says that we must give up all our possessions in order to follow him, he doesn’t mean that we must all hold a giant yard sale and live as mendicants on the streets. He means that we should lead a detached life, willingly sharing our blessings with others.
The four conditions of discipleship as outlined by Jesus indicate a kind of total commitment that every follower of Christ should be prepared to live. The radical demands of Jesus call us to center our lives on the suffering and risen Christ.
We might ask, ‘is there a difference between believing in Jesus and being a disciple?’ Yes! Just being an active church member is not enough. Jesus doesn’t want disciples who just “go along with the crowd.” He wants committed Christians — those who are aware of the costs of following him — who choose to follow him anyway. Being Jesus’ disciple has never been convenient. It is costly — costly in terms of money, time, relationships, and priorities.
Let me conclude with the quote from Pope Francis, “Faith is not something decorative or for show. To have faith means to put Christ truly at the center of our lives.” “We cannot be Christians part-time. If Christ is at the center of our lives, he is present in all that we do.”