“Great crowds were traveling with Jesus.” Maybe they had seen him cure people. Maybe they saw him drive out demons. Maybe they had heard him preach and wanted to hear more.
What does it mean to truly follow Jesus? How hard is to follow Jesus? We would like it to be easy but is it?
Today Jesus tells them (and He tells us) what is required to be a disciple. What’s it going to take?
Jesus begins by saying we cannot be his disciple without “hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life.” Why does Jesus speak of hating others? He had previously taught that the greatest commandment is to love God and the second is to love our neighbor. Does Jesus change his mind and tell us to hate?
This is a challenge for us because we see “hate” and “love” as opposites. We can’t both hate and love the same person, can we?
What Jesus is really telling us is that if we want to be his disciple, we must put him first in our lives. Yes, we are to love our neighbors but not more than God. We must even put God before our own life, hence Jesus saying we must hate even our own life. We need to turn everything over to God.
It is not easy. It can be our cross to bear. That leads us to the next condition for discipleship that Jesus offers in today’s gospel. We must be willing to carry the cross that we are given. We want life to be easy but there is suffering we must bear. We ask for the grace that we may carry our crosses as Christian witnesses and offer our sufferings for the salvation of all.
It is not easy to be Jesus’ disciple. This is why Jesus speaks of calculating the cost. Before we start a project it is important for us to determine what it will cost. If we wish to start building a house, we need to know what will be required to finish it Only then can we make a good decision to proceed.
We need to understand what is required for us to be Christian disciples. It is going to take effort. Are we willing to put forth the effort?
Of course, we need to realize that we are not God and that means we don’t know all that will happen. As we read in today’s reading from the Book of Wisdom, “Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the LORD intends.” Sometimes it seems difficult to discern what “is within our grasp,” let alone the things of Heaven.
We need to calculate the cost but part of that is realizing we don’t have all the answers. We aren’t supposed to. The things of this world can “burden the soul” and weigh “down the mind.” What we are we to do?
Trust. Knowing how much God loves us, we place our trust in him. We might feel insignificant, nothing more than the dust from which God created us. Why would God choose to love us? Because He wants to.
Indeed, we face various earthly challenges in this world. Yet, the things of this world are only temporary, springing up anew, only to wither and fade.
Today’s gospel ends with Jesus saying “anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be his disciple.” One may see a call to material poverty in this saying. What Jesus wants us to do is let go of our attachments to our possessions. If our material possessions dictate our actions, they have become a hinderance to knowing and loving God. We need to renounce our attachment to things so we can put God first in our lives.