Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Conditions for Discipleship

Twenty Third Ordinary Sunday Year C

Just when we thought that the narrow door was already difficult to enter, Jesus adds three more conditions in today’s gospel. It is not easy to follow Jesus! It is not easy to be a Christian. As the 2 parables in today’s gospel tell us, we must count the cost before committing ourselves. In other words, we must know what we are getting ourselves into. We cannot follow Christ blindly or be a Christian without considering the serious implications of our call.

What are the three conditions we hear Jesus speak off in today’s gospel?
The first condition is this: “Anyone who comes to me without hating father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, cannot be my disciple” This is a difficult/harsh teaching especially for us Chinese where we are constantly taught that family comes first. Confucius tells us that it is a greater sin to disobey and be disrespectful to your parents than disobedience to God. We have this principle taught to us from a very young age. Family and race is more important than anything else. But Jesus tells us that this should not be the case. If we are asked to choose between what our family wants us to do and what God wants from us, we must always choose what God wants even if this may go against the wishes of our family members. Does this mean that we stop loving our family members? No. We must love them more than ever. But we must be strong in our commitment to the truth and to what is right. Great sins have been committed in the name of family and race. The fact that it is done because of our allegiance to our family and our race does not make it right. Being a Christian helps us to become a better son or daughter, a better brother or sister. But our family should not be an obstacle from us becoming a good Christian.

The second condition made by Jesus is this: “No one who does not carry his cross and come after me can be my disciple.” This demand is more familiar and we have been hearing it many times. Does this mean that God wants us to accept suffering? No. God does not want us to suffer for the sake of suffering. Rather, the cross is the symbol of the gift of one’s life. One is a Christian only when one is ready to offer oneself totally to one’s brother or sister, like Jesus.

The third condition is this: “None of you can be my disciple without giving up all that he owns.” It is not a matter of giving a few cents to charity. One must give up really “all.” For many of us, Jesus here, has really gone too far. It’s one thing to have a disagreement with our family members and to carry our cross, its another thing if Jesus wants us to give up everything in order to follow him. He really must be crazy! It’s not easy to explain this third demand. What is sure anyway is that if we choose to follow Jesus, then we must change completely our attitude towards the goods of this world. It is no longer permissible to accumulate and acquire riches and goods for our own selfish ends while so many other people do not even have basic needs fulfilled.

If we examine the above three conditions, we find that they are totally unacceptable to a person who is only led by human arguments/ reasoning. These conditions can only be understood and accepted by one who has been granted the “wisdom from above”, which the first reading speaks about. When we are able to see things anew with this divine wisdom, we will recognize that the things we are prepared to give up are considered less than nothing in comparison with the riches we shall obtain in the kingdom of God.

Having heard these three conditions, are you still prepared to follow Jesus? If you are prepared to accept the life of a disciple of Christ, then let us now stand and recommit ourselves to Jesus as we recite the creed.

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