In the selection from St. Luke’s gospel for today’s liturgy, Jesus’ words are addressed to “great crowds” traveling with him. He tells them what it means to be his disciple. Clearly it is not for everyone; discipleship entails great determination, effort, and will include suffering. Jesus spells it out for us.
First, the one who will be a disciple of Jesus must “hate” father, mother, spouse, and children. The word seems at odds with what is Jesus’ typical approach. Normally Jesus calls people to love one another; here the word he uses emphasizes the personal commitment called forth to follow Jesus. In the Semitic context, to hate means to love one thing less than something else: in this case the something else is following Jesus as his disciple contrasted with the expected love of family.
Second, to be a disciple of Jesus means that one would be open to suffering as a direct consequence of following in the footsteps of Jesus. The one who would follow Jesus must “carry his own cross” if she/he would be a disciple.
Third, in order to give oneself to being a disciple one is called to consider clearly the implications of it all – that he/she needs to “renounce all possessions” to be a disciple. In another part of Luke’s gospel the rich man “went away sad” because he had many possessions. What are those things in my life that cause me sadness and pull me away from the commitment to follow Christ?
Clearly, to be a disciple of Jesus is a costly proposition and is not for everyone. Who, then can respond to this call of Jesus? That response is for the one who understands that the “job” of discipleship is not something that one takes on oneself lightly.
Ultimately, discipleship comes from responding to the call of Christ. The strength and power to meet its demands rests squarely on Jesus who invites the response. If I accept the invitation to discipleship, I need to trust that the very grace of Jesus himself will be my guide and inspiration in accomplishing it. His grace will be sufficient for me.
Lord, I pray that I not be deaf to the call of Jesus to be his follower. Help me to respond well to that call as it affects my daily life. Let me start today with your grace to respond as your follower.
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