The Cost of Discipleship
Quite a picture in today’s Gospel: Jesus is travelling with great crowds; He stops and tells them that, to follow Him, you must “hate” your family and even your own life! Strong words! Discipleship is a great calling, but…hatred of family? Carrying your own cross? Challenging words to those who wanted to join His team and help spread His “Good News”…then…and now.
Jesus continues his discourse and invites his followers to consider how “costly” discipleship is. He compares the decision to follow Him to building a tower (most likely winemaking) or going to war. In both examples Jesus highlights that a person would be foolish to embark upon a major project without research, planning, resources, etc.
Today’s Gospel encourages us to consider our own discipleship, rooted in our Baptism “back when” in our lives. No doubt we’ve been blessed in many ways thus far – and we’ve faced some difficult times in living out our faith in our 21st Century world. Jesus directly challenges us to go deeper in our hearts and check on our resources and our personal resolve: Is Jesus 1st and foremost in our lives? Do “things”, or people, or possessions of any size or style get in the way? Are we open to growth and change in our discipleship with Jesus?
“Hard”? Yes! “Impossible”? No! As noted in the first reading from the Book of Wisdom, God provides the grace, the Spirit, to help us. And like Paul in his letter to Philemon, we have the support of one another in living as credible disciples of Jesus in our day and age — be we imprisoned or sick or elderly or experiencing any limitation.
Today we are invited to be grateful for the gift of our faith, cultivated in each of us by family and friends and our spiritual leaders. Likewise, we are grateful for our 21st Century discipleship and whatever vocation we’ve received from God. We are encouraged to continue growing as disciples, accepting the challenges and crosses that are part of our lives – helping each of us to not just be “one of the crowd,” but truly unique, faith-filled and loving disciples. May we be blessed as we credibly share our faith and our gifts with our needy sisters and brothers world-wide.
Fr. John Schork, C.P. is a member of the Passionist community in Chicago, Illinois.