23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Wisdom 9:13-18; Psalm 90:3-6, 12-17; Philemon 9-10, 12-17;Luke 14:25-33
Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:27)
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus makes three very demanding statements. He says that if we want to be his disciples, we must “hate” our families, we must carry our cross, and we must renounce all our possessions. Statements like these can make us wonder if Jesus is trying to make us into disciples or if he is just trying to drive us away.
Fortunately, the Church takes a composite view of Scripture, looking at each passage within the context of the whole Bible. If we look at today’s reading this way, we see some apparent conflicts. For instance, St. John says that hatred is equal to murder and will lead to hell (1 John 3:15). And Jesus himself said, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13:34). So we have to measure Jesus’ one statement about “hating” against these commands to love and lay down our lives for each other.
Similarly, the other commands to take up our cross and renounce everything—have to be measured against Jesus’ words about caring for children and his promise that his yoke is easy and his burden is light.
So if we put all of these passages together, we can see Jesus saying that love for God and obedience to his commands must take priority over everything else. He is telling us that if anyone asks us to do something that is opposed to God, we need to have the courage to say no to them.
Living as a disciple is demanding. It calls for self-denial, sacrifice, and suffering. Jesus even warns that we may face persecution (John 16:33). It will be tempting at times to make compromises and go with the crowd. Being a disciple is a major endeavor. Jesus wants us to count the cost of being a disciple, and he wants to give us the grace to see it through to the end.
“Lord, I want to follow you. Give me the strength to be your disciple.”~WAU