The Challenge of Discipleship
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 8, 2019
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 come after me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26-27
In my bedroom there is a large oval picture of my great-great grandparents in Poland. My great-grandmother (their daughter) left home as a young woman of perhaps 18 or 19 at the turn of the last century. She took very few possessions with her. She left home for a better life in the United States because there was no work in Poland and no prospects. She came seeking a better life and went to Chicago, where she met my great-grandfather, who had made the same sacrifices in his life. Neither one of them ever saw their families again, and my great-grandmother was an only child.
Many of you have similar stories of how our families came to this country. Imagine the sacrifices! Why shouldn’t Jesus ask the same thing? So many of our grandparents had the guts (or desperation) to do this in order to seek a better life – but would we have the guts to do something similar for Jesus if it were required? The Lord normally doesn’t ask this much, but what if he did? Could I do that?
Some people preach or follow a gospel that makes Christianity sound as easy as possible, as though no real commitment to Christ might be needed, no change of lifestyle, no difference from anyone else in the world. But this is not the gospel of Christ. Jesus makes it clear that following him is going to be a sacrifice and things are going to have to change. That’s part of the thrill of following Jesus – that it really is challenging.
When Jesus refers to “hating our life,” he does not mean anger or hostility toward the things we love. What he does mean is a spirit of detachment. If there is a conflict between something in my life and Jesus, particularly a sin, discipleship must take precedence, even over the most sacred human relationships if absolutely necessary!
To “hate one’s own life” does not mean self-loathing! Instead, Jesus insists we learn to hate what is displeasing to him, that is, our sins that we are attached to and may even prefer to keep. This is what we are to hate, and it is going to cost us plenty! But the reward is so worth it—becoming a true disciple of the Son of God.
A Christian must be ready to give up anything to keep his faith – and this is the point of this gospel. Is there something in my life that, if it were taken away from me, would cause me to lose my faith? Is there something I prefer other than Jesus? I may have to make that choice one day.