23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C
The Cost of Discipleship
Life is difficult. It is a given fact. No one is exempted from the challenges, difficulties and pains in life. Although as much as possible we try to avoid them – sometimes even pray to God that we will be spared from them – but our faith tells us that all these difficulties in life, no matter how small or big they are, they have value and purpose.
Moreover, these difficulties in life, if considered in the context of today’s Gospel, they become the means to distinguish people whether they are distant followers of the Lord or they are real disciples. It is possible to be a follower of Jesus without being a disciple; to be church-member but not an active member; to be baptized but not a witness; to be a Christian by name but not in action; to remain a believer but not a doer. It is one of the handicaps of the Church that in it there are so many distant followers of Jesus and so few real disciples.
Why? Because Jesus Himself shows us that the demands of discipleship is absolute and radical. In our Gospel today, He emphasizes the difficulty of discipleship by using 3 “cannot statements.”
First, “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.” Of course the meaning of the word “hate” as used by our Lord is completely different from our present understanding. The Semitic word for “hate” that Jesus uses actually means “to love much less than”. The point of the Lord is to point out to us that there are objectives, there are dreams higher than family life… and this is our discipleship and friendship with the Lord. There will be times when we will have to take a stand for our Lord which can mean a stand against somebody dear to us – our family, friends, co-workers, barkada, kumpare/kumare(friends, family members by affinity) , etc. That’s why discipleship is demanding.
Second, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” Many come following Jesus, admiring His miracles, but few follow Him in humiliation to the cross. When the cross is absent from our lives, then Christ is not present either. It is only in the light of the cross that we can afford the cost of discipleship. If we truly understand the reason, purpose and meaning of the cross, then we can become true disciples of the Lord without any fear. This is the truth Jesus wanted to convey that day, and this day, to His followers. Discipleship is a very demanding thing.
The 3rd “cannot statement” is, “Anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions, cannot be my disciple. The Lord demands that we renounce everything stripping our lifestyles down to the bare essentials. If we want to follow Christ, what is needed is not possession but renunciation. The Lord demands our total, full and uncompromising commitment. When it comes to discipleship, there are no degrees of involvement allowed.
No wonder only few from the followers of Christ are considered true disciples. It is not an easy task after all. But this is our calling. This is what we should strive to achieve here on earth.
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September 5, 2010 Scripture Readings,
The 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C