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The would-be followers of Jesus

Gospel Reading: Mt 8:18-22

When Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side. A scribe approached and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” Another of his disciples said to him, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But Jesus answered him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.”

REFLECTION
FOLLOW ME, AND LET THE DEAD BURY THEIR DEAD

One of the most influential Protestant theologians of the mid-20th century was the German Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In 1937 he published a book that was translated into English under the title The Cost of Discipleship. In this his reflection on the Sermon on the Mount, he attacks what he calls “cheap grace” that Protestant churches preach, namely, an unlimited offer of forgiveness that has led to moral laxity. You just accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior—and everything is fine.

But the teaching of Christ is quite different. Bonhoeffer himself paid “the cost of discipleship” by being imprisoned by the Nazis and executed two years later.

We can only admire the absolute honesty of Jesus, who is very different from politicians. In the two cases in the Gospel where people want to follow him, we see him presenting radical requirements: detachment from property and detachment from family.

I cannot forget that painful moment when I left my home and family to go to faraway Japan where my superiors had assigned me. And the similar pain when, after 15 years in Japan, I had to leave my friends for the next assignment here in the Philippines.

To follow Jesus is not a stroll in the park. It involves sacrifice—a word we do not like to hear. But these sacrifices strengthen. Wherever Christians are persecuted, the Church is strong, while when there is no pressure, the Church seems soft or weak.

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“Sacrifice is a part of life. It’s supposed to be.It’s not something to regret. It’s something to aspire to” (Mitch Albom).

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SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord,” ST PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: publishing@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.

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