The Gospel According to Luke 14:25-33
Great crowds were traveling with him, 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, everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”
Opening Prayer: Almighty and merciful God, by whose gift your faithful offer you right and praiseworthy service, grant, we pray, that we may hasten without stumbling to receive the things you have promised. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God forever and ever. Amen.
This Gospel reading is much more than an ethical message about a particular, Christian, way of life. It is about Jesus, his own person and the Kingdom he came to proclaim. Here he shows how radical are his demands on those who choose to follow him: even when we remove the dramatic form of the words he uses, we are reminded of the first commandment, of loving God before all else.
Let us ask for the heart of a real disciple of Jesus, loving him above all else.
Jesus’ bold challenge to his disciples is shocking. It’s as if he wished to thin the ranks of his followers! This is a mysterious lesson about the power of God. The only Son of God died for all men; the one Catholic Church is the sacrament of salvation among all mankind; and one disciple who carries his cross sanctifies the whole mystical body of Christ.
Jesus exhorts us to realism. Don’t start a tower you can’t finish. Don’t fight a battle you can’t win. Be strategic; make the tough choices. In other words, let’s make the love of Christ our number one priority. We look into the eyes of Jesus and know he means it: “If you want to follow me, then follow me with everything, wholeheartedly, or not at all.”
What does renunciation really mean? It cannot mean to throw away all we own, or simply do without it. Renunciation means recognizing that everything we have—including relationships with loved ones—comes from the Lord and therefore should be entrusted to him. May we joyfully welcome and embrace the gifts of God in our lives, never forgetting where they come from.
The strong contrast in Jesus’ words (hate father and mother) is a Hebrew idiom for what we would call establishing priorities. We may have to make choices between the call of the Lord and the pull of family. Jesus is talking to the large crowds who were drawn to him; here as elsewhere he warns against an attraction that is too impulsive and emotional. What do you ask of me, Lord?
Let me know the cost.
In prayer it is just God and I; for a while all else is given up. I need nothing to pray except myself. This is how I came into the world and how I will go – naked of all I possess and own. This can be an experience of great freedom. Prayer is the moment of offering our self to God – the true and real self without the ‘possessions’, which can sometimes block God’s invitation and grace.
Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, your words are difficult. Sometimes I must literally renounce possessions or relationships because I follow you, while at other times I must simply entrust them to you, again and again. Help me to discern the difference, and never allow anything to be an obstacle to my discipleship.
Action of the Day: As we sit with this scripture what arises in your thoughts or feelings? Are we led to look at our commitment to our decisions? Can we live with the consequences of those decisions?
Can we forgive ourselves and continue to love as God loves each of us, even when we make poor or unhealthy and unloving decisions?
Talk with Jesus about this through an examination of conscience, asking for the light to discover anything, which distracts us from following Him.