Gospel Reading: Lk 14:25-33
Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, 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. 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.”
How do we respond to Jesus’ challenges in the Gospel? In his powerful reflection on evangelization in the modern world (Evangelii Nuntiandi), Pope Paul VI makes an insightful point: the Gospels are meant to challenge our values, choices, and relationships. The Church’s task in preaching the Gospel means, according to Paul VI, “affecting and, as it were, upsetting, through the power of the Gospel, humanity’s criteria of judgment, determining values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of inspiration and models of life, which are in contrast with the Word of God and the plan of salvation” (EN 19). The demands of discipleship pose real questions: Do I place God first in my life – even above family and friends? Do I willingly carry my daily crosses? Am I over-attached to material possessions?
Being an admirer of Jesus is easy; being a genuine disciple requires commitment, dedication, and decision. One valid, contemporary description of discipleship is to understand it as a “countercultural witness.” This means following one’s Christian convictions – even against the tide of prevailing cultural patterns and values that are contrary to the Gospel. Some brief examples help to illustrate this “countercultural” point. A young man who is a new doctor or lawyer leaves his profession and enters the seminary to study for priesthood. A pregnant, unmarried lady refuses the convenient path of abortion, knowing it will radically change her life. A brave man speaks out against corruption in government or business, even if it may cost him his job or bring threats to his life. Family members lovingly care for a Downs Syndrome or handicapped child at great sacrifice to themselves.
A nun volunteers to leave a comfortable school in Manila to work with the indigenous peoples in Mindoro or Mindanao. A family commits to a shared meal with some time for common prayer several times a week. Both Church and society need the witness of people who are countercultural. Many world leaders followed the humble nun Mother Teresa to her burial, but her countercultural witness, I believe, must have made them (and us) decidedly uncomfortable. Ask yourself: What sacrifices or changes in my life are needed so I can be a more genuine and compassionate disciple of Jesus?
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