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Conditions of Discipleship
Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’ Or 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.”
Opening Prayer: Jesus, I trust in you! I believe your words and I desire to carry them out as your disciple. Come Holy Spirit, grant me the gifts I need to live out this Gospel truth.
- Detachment from the World: Earlier in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus called the first disciples at the Sea of Galilee. After they had a miraculous catch of fish, when “they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him” (Luke 5:11). In this passage, Jesus called the people gathered in the crowd to discipleship, inviting them to renounce all of their possessions. Jesus wants us to follow him with our whole hearts. It is part of the greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). When worldly possessions take up space in our hearts that should belong to God, he cannot fully reside there. Becoming detached from worldly things is a process that God wants to guide us through. Do we allow him to work this way in our hearts?
- Self-Abnegation: Read these crucial words again: “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). When we practice self-abnegation, we deny ourselves the things of this world and turn away from things that can fill our egos with pride. We imitate Christ by emptying ourselves out for love of him and our neighbors (Philippians 2:6-8). We do not have to lift our crosses alone because Christ himself lifts them with us. We begin to see ourselves as children of God and his beloved disciples. St. Therese of Lisieux wrote, “He whose Kingdom is not of this world taught me that the only royalty to be coveted lies in being unknown and esteemed as not, and in the joy of self-abasement” (Story of a Soul). May we strive, like St. Therese, to be hidden and small and let go of our own glory so as to share in Christ’s true glory.
- Remain in the Lord: Detachment and self-abnegation are possible only when we trust in the Lord and allow him to strengthen us. We must be firmly attached to Christ to have the fortitude and temperance to live as his disciples. Jesus taught the disciples: “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5). When we are attached to Christ, the true vine, we remain in his love and have everything we need. We learn to need the things of the world less and less. We learn to rely on him for all we need. When we are attached to Jesus, we have true humility and can deny ourselves and bear our crosses through his strength.
Conversing with Christ: Jesus, my King, I want to follow you with my whole heart. I am sorry for the times that I have fallen short of your call to full discipleship. Help me to let go of the things of this world that keep you from dwelling in my heart. Give me the strength to take up my own cross daily and bear it boldly out of love for you. Send your Holy Spirit to dwell in me and give me everything I need to be your disciple.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will deny myself by making a small sacrifice out of love for you.
For Further Reflection: Read this chapter of The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis: “We Ought to Deny Ourselves and Imitate Christ through Bearing the Cross.”
Carey Boyzuck, MTS, is a wife, mother, freelance writer, pastoral assistant, and lay member of Regnum Christi. She blogs at www.word-life-light.com.