When We Are Outnumbered
23rd Sunday Ordinary Time
September 4, 2022
What king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops? But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms. In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”
from Luke 14:25-33
Who among us has not at times felt we were outnumbered in some battle of life? This Sunday’s teaching of Jesus, found only in Luke, uses two common examples. In one case, Jesus points out that someone planning a building project without adequate resources and stopping half-way would be a laughingstock. The second example, quoted above, warns us that if we come to realize we are outnumbered in a battle two to one, you had better sit down to peace talks, because winning is unlikely.
Jesus is not talking about earthly construction projects or human battles, but spiritual battles and undertakings. We know this because Jesus finishes his teaching by counseling us that if we are going to be his disciples, we must renounce all our possessions.
Jesus doesn’t mean we need to all become monks and nuns or live in tents. Rather he is advising us to renounce that which is most dear to us, the one thing in this world that truly belongs to us and which Jesus will never violate: our human free will. This is the possession we must fight to renounce: willfulness, stubbornness, arrogance, obstinacy, a mindset that listens to no one but ourselves, which is demonic.
As we engage in our daily life battles, small and great, the Holy Spirit may lead us to set aside our own plans for the day, our own decision, to give way to what God desires. We are contending with the unseen world of demons and our own propensity to make bad or evil choices, which may lead us to feel like giving in or giving up. Everything can be a spiritual growth moment, and if we are trying to rely only on our own resources in life’s daily spiritual battles, small and great, we are likely as not to be defeated (“ask for peace terms”). We ARE outnumbered. That’s precisely the point. Jesus wants us to know he has our back. Call on him, call on his Holy Spirit for guidance and the good angels to help us, yield to the fruits and gifts of the spirit (Ephesians 5:9). Jesus doesn’t want us to think we can build or battle on our own, without him. Even though the odds, by worldly standards, are against us, with him, we will be led to victory.