The cost of discipleship!
Reflection on Gospel for the 23rd Sunday
Fr. Jude Botelho
1st. Reading : Wisdom 9:13-18
2nd Reading : Philemon 9-10, 12-17
Gospel : Luke 14: 25-33
SEPTEMBER 5, 27 (http://holyspiritinteractive.com) - The Book of Wisdom, from which today’s first reading is taken, was written about a hundred years before Christ’s birth. The Jewish community at Alexandria in Egypt, the place where it was written, lived in a world where different religions and philosophies were competing for converts. The devout Jew felt out of place and was tempted by the attraction of new religions. To counter this feeling the book taught that there was no need to envy other ways of life. Commitment to God, even when His plan lay beyond human understanding is the true way of wisdom. The author of the book presents part of his version of Solomon’s prayer for wisdom. Solomon wanted to build a magnificent temple to God. How could he perform such a task without wisdom? The answer, no one can arrive at God’s counsels without wisdom. As human beings it is virtually impossible to know how God wants us to make decisions and live without God’s help. Yet discernment is required at every step of life and wisdom is given by God to those who ask for it.
In the second reading from the letter of St. Paul to Philemon, Paul is writing about a slave, Onesimus, who had run away from Philemon and fled to Rome. Paul encountered him and converted him to Christianity. Paul is now making a plea to Philemon, to whom he is sending Onesimus, to accept Onesimus back not as a slave but as a brother in Christ. He does not demand this of Philemon but appeals to his faith and his love for Christ. Paul’s request shows his absolute fidelity to the change in values that following Christ demands. If we are baptized in Christ and are his true followers, we cannot be governed by old habits and customs we have to live according to Gospel values, which might challenge us to act with forgiveness and love rather than demand our rights.
A Bucket of money
One fine evening a man walked into a fast-food chicken place and bought a nine-piece bucket of chicken. He took his chicken to the park for a romantic picnic under the moonlight with his lady. Upon reaching into the bucket, however, he received a surprise. Instead of chicken he discovered what was apparently the restaurant's night deposit--nine thousand dollars. The young man brought the bucket back to the store and asked for his chicken in exchange for the money. The manager, in awe of the young man's honesty, asked for his name and told him he wanted to call the newspaper and the local news station to do a story on him. He would become a local hero, an example of honesty and morality that would inspire others! The hungry man shrugged it off. "My date's waiting. I just want my chicken." The manager's renewed amazement over the young man's humility almost overwhelmed him. He begged to be allowed to tell the story on the news. At this the honest man became angry with the manager and demanded his chicken. "I don't get it," the manager responded. "You are an honest man in a dishonest world! This is a perfect opportunity to show the world that there are honest people still willing to take a stand for what is right. Please, give me your name and also the woman's name. Is that your wife?" "That's the problem," said the young man. "My wife is at home. The woman in the car is my girlfriend. Now let me have my chicken so I can get out of here."
It's easy to look good to people who don't know you. Many of us do a good deed here and there, go to church, say the right words, and everyone thinks we're something that we're not. But God sees our heart. It really doesn't matter how much you do or what other people think of you. What matters is what's on the inside.
- Author Unknown
In today’s gospel we are reminded of the cost of discipleship. Discipleship demands total dedication. With God there can be no half measures. The language Jesus uses may appear shocking: “If a man comes after me without hating his father, mother, wife, children… he cannot be my disciple.” The word ‘hate’ has been widely interpreted, not as emotional anger or desire of harm to others, but as ‘loving less’ when faced with a fundamental life choice- one that makes a disciple turn his or her life upside down. For Jesus this is the equivalent of carrying one’s cross.
When Jesus preached great crowds followed him. They had false ideas of the Messiah; ‘they thought he was on the way to build an empire; He knew he was on his way to he cross. They though discipleship had no costs; He on his way to Jerusalem to suffer and die, was aware of its demands. He had to put them straight. So he gave them three conditions for following him – putting commitment to him above everything else, including family ties; maintaining self-control; and developing detachment from possessions. Those are the opposite of worldly people, who go in for lack of commitment, self-indulgence and attachment to all that you can lay your hands on.’ – Harold Buetow
We build with whatever you sent ahead….
A very rich man died and arrived in heaven. He looked around at the beautiful buildings, and he already had his eye on a building that would become someone of his stature. However, Peter beckoned him to follow, so he went along. The choice of beautiful buildings was breath-taking, but he was led past the whole lot. Finally, they came to an area where there was a little hovel, with just the bare essentials, and no creature comforts of any kind. When the man discovered that this was for him, he was furious and demanded to know why he was being given such a hovel when all others had mansions. “Well, you cannot blame me” says Peter. “You see, all we do is build with whatever material you sent on ahead when you lived on earth. With what you sent, this is the best we can do!”
- Jack McArdle in ‘And that’s the Gospel truth!’
To drive his message of the cost of discipleship home Jesus told two stories. The first about the man who wanted to build a tower to overlook and protect his vineyard, dealt with private life. The second about a king who wanted to wage a battle, pertained to political life. Concerning private life we know of many people perhaps whose lives were failures because of lack of commitment to a cause. On the level of social committment, we have living examples of people whose lives are shattered and ruined because people responsible have failed in the commitment to defend, guard and take up their cause. To follow Jesus one has to be aware of the cost and knowingly accept to follow him no matter what the cost. Both the parables address the need for both the builder and the king to work out, before they take action, whether they are able to finish the job. What are the risks involved and are they ready to take them? It is perhaps easy to emotionally respond to the call of Christ and enthusiastically throw ourselves into giving up everything without any thought of the cost involved. Are we aware of the fact that the call is not a ‘one-off’ experience? Following the call is a decision to be made every day. It demands a letting-go daily of our ‘baggage’ which we can only do if we are totally committed to him.
We can only follow Jesus if He is our everything!