+RENOUNCING ALL OUR POSSESSIONS 23 Sunday-C, 4 Sep. 2022
We are presented this morning with one of the most challenging of the Gospel readings. Jesus saying that “anyone who comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his or her own life, cannot be my disciple” probably makes us uneasy. So often, Jesus shakes us out of our complacency so that we may see more clearly what following him will involve for us. While demanding, it is also life-giving as we look closely at what he’s asking of us. He shows us where our real joy may to be found, how a lasting fulfillment may be discovered.
This is what is called “Come and See” weekend when there are a number of young men with us taking a close look at our way of life. They do well, like the rest of us, to ponder carefully on these words of Jesus for to become a true disciples and all the more to pursue the religious life, means a real death to self- interests so that God’s grace may pervade the whole of our lives.
Hearing Jesus say to hate those dear to us may come across as contradictory to what he says elsewhere about loving one another. In John’s gospel, he adds that we are to “love one another as I love you.” These few words hold the secret to our gospel today. We will truly love those dear to us if we love them in the very love of Christ, allow ourselves to so deeply experience his love in our lives that it overflows to all around us. We may often find ourselves bewildered by the simple fact that we cannot love as we ought, but strangely enough this is probably the most important lesson to be learned from today’s gospel.
It is certainly is the reason Jesus presents us with the two parables after telling us of the heavy cost of discipleship. First he gives us the example of one who wants to construct a tower, to look at whether he or she has enough for its completion. Then he tells us of a king with 10,000 soldiers going into battle with another king who has 20,000 troops. Being his disciple is going to place heavy demands on our resources, far more, in fact, than we have to complete what we have undertaken as persons called to discipleship.
Yes, you or I do not have the where-with-all to accomplish our undertaking as disciples of Jesus. The cost of discipleship is far too much for our own limited resources but in Him we are enabled to overcome whatever obstacles we may encounter along the way.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book The Cost of Discipleship warns us of the great danger of what he calls “cheap” grace, i.e. grace without the cross, without a real sharing in the sufferings of Christ. Bonhoeffer tells us that for the one who wants to be a disciple of Christ “but feels obliged to insist on his or her own terms…then discipleship is no longer discipleship, but a program of our own to be arranged to suit ourselves.” Every one of us gathered here is being faced daily with this very decision, whether to live from grace that really costs us or from a cheap grace that operates on its own terms and is not a following of Jesus at all. It is only in faith that we see the difference and this is not our own doing but the gift of God.
Isn’t this the reason why Jesus gets us to ask ourselves about whether we have the resources to be his disciples. Experience shows us often that we don’t. This is where prayer and fasting can become so helpful as we are forced to see the limits of our own capacity. “For the deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans. For the corruptible body burdens the soul and the earthen shelter weighs down the mind that has many concerns” the Book of Wisdom just reminded us in the first reading. In prayer we acknowledge our poor resources and come to rely on the gift of the Holy Spirit to support us in our weakness. To do so is to know the power of Christ’s own life at work in our hearts.
Through this Eucharist we are again celebrating this love of Christ at work in us. This great act of love, bread broken and given, wine blessed and shared are his very own Body and Blood as food for our journeys. They sustain us in our darkest moments. Through this great act of love we become one with the gift we receive, experience a love that will last forever. Amen
(Wisdom 9:13-18b; Phlm 9-10, 12-17; Lk 14:25-33)