Jesus embodies what he teaches on being thoughtful and purposeful. He asks all his followers to be so, and thus the success of the cross will be theirs.
Great crowds go with Jesus on the way to Jerusalem (see Lk 9, 51; 13, 22). He turns and tells them that to be his followers does not just mean to go with him. He looks for good more than many followers.
So then, he speaks of three hurdles that those who want to follow him have to go through. And his blunt speech shocks: “hate” family, “carry the cross,” “give up all that one owns.” It thus grabs attention and makes for easy recalling. That the sayings are hyperboles just proves that they are crucial. We may not quite comply to a T, but nor are we to twist or weaken them.
Blocks that can make those who want to be Jesus’ followers to stumble
In the first place, the Teacher asks his followers to be at his beck and call. They have to do as did Simon, Andrew, James and John. Just as soon as they heard his call, they left their nets and their families, and followed him. They then got to be of another household. In it, it was hard to know, since they loved one another, who was the master and who was the slave.
In the second place, Jesus asks his followers to bear their own cross and follow him. To bear the cross is to die for sure, for it means a death sentence has been passed. It is not enough, then, for those who seek to follow him to leave their jobs and their homes. They must also suffer and die with him. They will honor God by the way they die as Jesus’ followers. Others will nail them to one form of the cross or other.
In the third place, it is a must for those who want to follow Jesus to give up all they own. He tells them, in effect, that his followers —theirs is the kingdom of God— sell what they own and give alms. They thus store in heaven wealth that does not run out, no thief can steal and no moth can ruin. They serve God, not money; money is not what drives them.
Jesus’ followers think and have purpose.
So then, it is not easy to be Jesus’ disciple, that is to say, to be a Christian. For there is no talk here of disciples being other than just Christians. Nor is there mention of degrees of perfection. All Christians have to meet Christ’s three demands.
But since it is hard to follow him, one cannot take it up lightly. Hence, we need to think and have purpose, so that we do not commit to being his followers in a clueless, rash and foolhardy way.
And we just have to look at Jesus long, and with love, so our commitment may be what it ought to be. Gazing on him to find out what he would do were he in our place, we shall not fall (SV.EN XI:314). If we look at the one who goes before us on the way to being nailed to the cross, we too will give up our bodies and shed our blood. That is to say, we will be raised up on the cross.
Lord Jesus, make us, who say we are your followers, so humble, thoughtful and wise that we accept that all success is due to you.
4 September 2022
23rd Sunday in O.T. (C)
Wis 9, 13-18; Phlm 9-10. 12-17; Lk 14, 25-33