In today’s Gospel (Luke 14:25-33), Jesus lays out three conditions that must be met if you want to be his disciple:
“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.”
“Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
“Anyone who does not give up all of his possessions cannot be my disciple.”
It’s tempting for us to try to soften what Jesus says. It’s a demanding message. This message is not just for those in the large crowd that were traveling with Jesus, it is directed at us as well.
Did Jesus really mean that we cannot be his disciples unless we are willing to “hate” our father and mother, spouse and children, brothers and sisters, even our own life?
Well, yes and no.
In Jesus‘ time, the word “hate” was a common Hebrew Aramaic expression which means to place someone or something secondary to the other.
To say you “love” one and “hate” another was an expression of ranking one above the other. Jesus makes the point that He should be the greater love. (CCC 1618)
Perhaps Matthew’s gospel expresses this point clearer when Jesus says, “Whoever loves his father and mother more than me is not worthy of me.” (Mt 10:37)
To be a disciple demands wholehearted commitment to following Jesus, placing aside all family relationships, wealth, and possessions…willingly embracing persecution, and suffering.
Reflecting on this commitment to follow Jesus reminds me of another gospel story — the Rich Man asking Jesus, the Good Teacher, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus acknowledges to the young man that he has followed the commandments faithfully …“but you are lacking one thing. Go and sell what you have and give to the poor… then, come follow me.” (Matt 10:17-22)
Are we fully committed to follow Jesus and to be his disciple?
Society says we are to be in charge and in control to be happy; but Jesus says that we need to be obedient and follow him, even along the Way of the Cross.
Society says that we need to be rich to be happy; Jesus says that we need to be poor in spirit and detach ourselves from all our possessions.
Society says that we are weak and foolish if we surrender our will to God and His Church. Jesus says He is the Way, the truth and the life.
When I reflect upon the cost of discipleship, I ask to myself:
Can anyone honestly check the Yes box on all three conditions for discipleship?
While this command is overwhelming, the Church gives us examples of ordinary people living extraordinary lives — The Saints.
One modern day saint that stands out is Mother Teresa of Calcutta who is being canonized by Pope Francis this Sunday.
Mother Teresa spent her life in service to the poor and forsaken.
One of her first act of obedience was to serve the dying, the poorest of the poor, those with no one else to help them.
Mother Teresa said if we reject the poor, if we do not go out to meet them, we reject Jesus himself.
Jesus is the one we take care of, visit, clothe, feed, and comfort. (It is He) every time we do this to the poorest of the poor, to the sick, to the dying, to the leper… We should not serve the poor like they were Jesus. We should serve the poor because they are Jesus.
When Mother Teresa was asked where she finds the fortitude and compassion to serve the poor, she answered, “In the Blessed Sacrament.”
“If we really understand the Eucharist, if we really center our lives on Jesus’ Body and Blood, if we nourish our lives with the Bread of the Eucharist; then it will be easy for us to see Christ in that hungry one next door, the one lying in the gutter, the alcoholic man we shun, our husband, or our wife, or our restless child. For in them, we will recognize the distressing disguises of the poor: Jesus in our midst.”
To illustrate this point, I remember Mother’s Teresa story about a young Novice, who had just entered the Congregation and was anxious to go with another Sister to help with the Home for the Dying. Before they left, Mother Teresa asked them to attend Mass first and notice how tenderly and loving the priest touches the Body of Christ. She told them do not forget that Christ is the same Christ you touch in the poor.
Upon returning from helping at the home, the Novice said with great joy, “Mother, I touched the Body of Christ for the last three hours. Right after we arrived, they brought us a man covered with wounds. He had been picked up from the rubble. I had to help take care of his wounds. It took three hours. Therefore, I touched the body of Christ for three hours. I am sure it was him.”
Mother Teresa reminds all of us that:
When you look at the Crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then.
When you look at the Sacred Host you understand how much Jesus loves you now.
Mother Teresa showed us during her lifetime how to live by these principles. She and her Missionaries of Charity lived a life of total surrender, loving trust and cheerfulness, according to the example shown by Jesus in the Gospel.
God calls us to a similar discipleship of putting him first, living sacrificially out of love, and putting everything we have at God’s service in our ordinary life.
To be His disciple…God doesn’t expect all of us to do great things, but we can all do small things with great love.
Mother Teresa … St. Teresa of Calcutta… Saint of Mercy… Pray for us.