The world is full of wishful thinkers who dream and talk but never succeed because they are unprepared to make an effort. While addressing a large crowd who are eager to join up and be his disciples, Jesus bluntly dampens their enthusiasm by challenging them in a way that is off putting. He is not interested in gaining a large following by softening his words and watering down the requirements needed, so he leaves his listeners under no illusion about the cost of discipleship. Nothing short of total commitment, even life itself is required.
In fact he is saying something like this: ‘If you want to be disciples of mine, you have got to think seriously. Do not act on the spur of the moment or on impulse because it’s not for the starry eyed. Give careful consideration to what it’s going to cost because I have no time for half-hearted recruits. I’m not inviting you to walk in my footsteps for a day, a month or even a year but for a lifetime. What’s more I am looking for followers who will measure up to my expectations.’
The gospel presents us with a series of sayings on what the demands of a life of discipleship involves in terms of suffering and self-sacrifice. The life to be led and the conditions laid down are anything but easy: you give God everything and hold nothing back. Whole-hearted service is demanded and there is no room for compromise. The price to be paid is the heavy burden of cross-carrying and it may mean the parting of company with close friends. The journey to God is so valuable that it is worth stripping our lifestyles down to the bare essentials. By doing this we realise that discipleship is more important than acquiring possessions.
This gospel makes us feel uncomfortable because our lives should demonstrate that we are carrying the cross. When the cross is absent from our lives then Christ is not present either. Putting God first in our lives is a choice we must make every day. We can hardly consider ourselves as feeling the pinch and standing up for what we believe if all we show is Sunday mass with communion and a few prayers hastily said. At moments when the struggle becomes too great, it is good to remember we are not alone; Christ is walking along every step of the road with us. We are called to be disciples at home, in the family, in our place of work, in our dealings with our neighbours, treating them all as our friends and appreciating their true worth. To follow Christ through time into eternity costs nothing less than everything!
Fr Peter Tipene