Gospel and reflection 4.9.2022

September 4th, 2022


Great crowds were traveling with Jesus,
and he turned and addressed them,
“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.
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.”

We know from our experience that before any significant undertaking, we need to sit down and think through what will be required of us. Before we act, we need to reflect, not just on our own but with others. That is the message of the two small parables that Jesus speaks in today’s gospel reading. Before building a tower on his land, the landowner has first to sit down and work out the cost. Before marching to war, a king has to first sit down and work out whether he has the soldiers necessary for victory.

The enterprise that Jesus was referring to in today’s gospel reading is that of becoming his disciple. He was talking to the great crowds who were accompanying him. Jesus obviously wanted disciples from that great crowd but he also wanted people to know what was involved in becoming his disciple. It would require giving Jesus an allegiance that is even stronger that the allegiance we would naturally give to our families. That is what Jesus means by that language which seems very strange to our ears about hating family members. It is a Semitic way of expressing preference. Jesus was saying, ‘You are to prefer me to even the most significant people in your life’.

He goes on to say that if we are to love him even more than family we are certainly to love him more than our possessions. Attachment to him comes before attachment to family and possessions. So, Jesus is saying to the people around him that, in the light of what is involved, they need to sit down and reflect whether or not they really want to be his disciples. Becoming his disciple is not to be undertaken lightly. The message of the two parables is ‘don’t start if you cannot finish’.

Jesus wants disciples who will be faithful to him to the end, even though that may mean taking the way of the cross with him.

We live in a time when we need to make a deliberate and informed choice to be a follower of the Lord today. We are no longer being carried by a tide that is moving in the broad direction of the gospel that Jesus preached.

Instead, there can be a great deal of pressure to take a path different to the one that Jesus is calling us to take (some of it subtle pressure and some of it not so subtle).

In choosing to belong to the community of the Lord’s disciples, we are more likely to find ourselves at odds with family members and friends than would have been the case in the past. Belonging to the family of the Lord’s disciples today requires more of a conscious decision on our part. It requires a conscious effort to follow the Lord.

In the language of today’s first reading, we seek to ‘know the intentions of God’, to ‘divine the will of the Lord’, to ‘discover what is in the heavens’.

This requires a conscious and deliberate effort on our part. Yet, we are not left to ourselves to trying to discern what it means to be a disciple of the Lord today. Jesus journeys with us as God’s Wisdom and both God the Father and Jesus his Son have sent the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Wisdom, into our lives. The Lord who calls us to be his disciple in today’s world also gives us the wherewithal to live as his disciple. The Spirit is given to each one of us personally and the Spirit also comes to us in and through the other members of the church, our brothers and sisters in the Lord. The difficult journey of discipleship is always one we travel together in the power of the Spirit. In the second reading, it is through the Holy Spirit’s presence in Paul that Onesimus became a disciple of the Lord. We need the Spirit present in each other if we are to be the Lord’s faithful disciples today
Lord, my life is Yours.  Please give me the grace to surrender everything that makes up my life to You without reserve.  I surrender to You my life, my finances, my possessions, my family, my labours and my entire future.  All is Yours, dear Lord.  Do with me what You will.  Jesus, I trust in You.