September 4, 2022: Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel: Luke 14:25-33
Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, “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. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’ Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops? But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms. In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”
As I read and reflected on this Gospel passage, I wondered how I would have felt as a member of this great crowd following Jesus. Is he looking right at me as he turns and speaks? Does he want me to respond to his question? How do I react to the criteria he establishes for being his disciple? Jesus, why are you saying I must hate my family to be counted among your disciples? What does constructing a tower or planning for war have to do with picking up my cross and following you?
After spending time in prayer and then directly asking him, “Why are you saying these things to me?” Jesus patiently and lovingly responds, “Why do you think I am speaking to you this way?” Long pause and more thought on my part. Finally, I am able to share from my heart what has been stirred up. I say, “I need to understand that following you calls me to accept that my life will be forever changed. I will have a part in your mission that moves me from an insular life to one that proclaims the reign of God intended for all the human family. Be patient with me as I learn what carrying my cross means on a daily basis.”
What has your conversation with Jesus about your discipleship been like? In prayer, perhaps we can ask for the wisdom to see what we might be holding on to that hinders us from following Jesus. And also to see the grace that we need to be able to let go and fully embrace our discipleship.
I have always felt this scripture provided another opportunity to understand that Christ must be first in our lives, essentially in all things. The Lord expects this from us. The matter of hating ones’ family is symbolic to putting the Trinity as the first love and guide in our life.