Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily Nov. 8 at Conception Seminary in Conception, Mo.
In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us that becoming his disciple involves much more than merely being in the crowd and listening to him. To be his disciple we have to give up things and he names three specific things, saying that unless we give these up we “cannot be his disciple.”
• The first thing is that we have to love him more than we love our own family: “If anyone comes after me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Here “hate” really just means “love less” — Jesus never wants us to hate anyone!
I note that Luke is the only evangelist to mention giving up a wife as a condition for following Jesus, which speaks directly to us who as celibates give up the possibility of having a wife as a condition for responding to his call to the priesthood.
• The second thing is that we have to be willing to face rejection and suffering as the price of doing God’s will, especially when family or friends — not to mention Satan or our own awareness of unworthiness — try to convince us to take an easier path that we know is not God’s will for us. “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”
• The third thing is that we have to put our trust in the Lord and God’s providence rather than in whatever security or pleasure we think material possessions can provide us. He says, “Every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”
So to be his disciple we have to love him more than our family, embrace suffering and renounce our possessions. No easy task!
And so Jesus drives home his point with two parables in the form of two rhetorical questions designed to get those who want to be disciples to reflect long and hard before taking that decisive next step of leaving all to follow him, reminding them that everything means everything. They have to be willing to be “all in,” which means that their “yes” must be rooted in something deeper than a mere passing enthusiasm inspired by something they heard Jesus say or saw him do. Rather, like a man building a tower or a king preparing to march into battle, they need to think things through.
Now this doesn’t mean never-ending obsessing about whether we should say “yes” or “no”. When the Lord calls, the only appropriate answer is “yes.” So I ask you:
• Can you put doing of God’s will ahead of your family and friends, including ahead of your desire to have a wife? Yes, with God’s help you can. But like the man building a tower, you need to lay a solid spiritual foundation and then everything else will fall into place.
• Can you accept whatever crosses, whatever rejection may come your way as the cost of faithfulness to the Lord? Embracing the cross is hard but with God’s help you can do it.
None of us has any idea of what adversities may come our way in the future, like it or not — illness comes to everyone — so why not ask for terms of peace, like the king who sees that with 10,000 troops he cannot successfully oppose another king approaching him with 20,000 troops. You’ll have no peace in your heart until you’re doing what God asks of you.
• Can you renounce all your possessions? Yes, you can, if that is what the Lord asks of you. In practical terms it means retaining whatever is useful for serving the Lord and letting loose of everything else.
We need a car for ministry, though not a Lexus. We need a roof over our heads, though not a mansion. And so on, never letting our possessions possess us. Always aware that any surplus we have actually belongs to the poor. Always looking for ways to provide real help to those in need.
Jesus has called you to be his disciple and he expects you to say “yes” with actions that make it clear that you are “all in.” This means that everything else becomes unimportant by comparison, including your family and your possessions.
He calls you to take up your cross and follow him. This is a serious business because otherwise you “cannot be his disciple.”
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