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Fidelity to Discipleship
Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop
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, every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”
Opening Prayer: Dear Lord, I thank you for the opportunity to spend time in prayer with you. I need your grace to sustain and strengthen my love for you and for my neighbor. Help me to appreciate more deeply the gift of being your disciple.
- “Great Crowds Were Traveling with Jesus”: It is easy to draw a crowd of curious onlookers. People like to be entertained, catch the latest news, and follow the latest trend. The crowd itself attracts more onlookers: “What’s going on that’s so exciting?” Jesus could clearly draw a crowd. He spoke as no one else had ever spoken. His miracles were fascinating with dramatic cures, exorcisms, and the multiplication of loaves, to name only a few. It was enough to be in his presence to feel close to God. While the people’s interest was for the most part sincere, the excitement of it all ran the risk of people superficially following Jesus as long as the fun remained. We can all be tempted to seek the consolation of God more than the God of consolation. Curiosity is a natural start, but it must develop and grow into a relationship, discipleship, and love.
- “Whoever Does Not Carry His Own Cross”: Jesus has a simple formula for maturing his followers; it is the cross. “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” However, the question may legitimately arise, “Why is the cross a condition of following Jesus?” Jesus provides an answer in this passage. When he speaks of “hating father and mother” and even one’s “own life,” Jesus is indicating that the price of discipleship is to love him above all other things— even good and holy things like mother and father. Only God may have the first place in our lives: “…seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides” (Luke 12:31). Whenever we choose something, we necessarily leave other options behind, and that entails sacrifice. For example, when you pick a job, you leave the other jobs aside. Christ is saying that all of our decisions must be subordinate to love of him and his will. “Will this decision transgress one of the Ten Commandments?” “Is this decision in accord with my vocation or state in life?” “Is this decision God’s will for me at this moment?” That is where we must prayerfully discern what God wants for us. This is not meant to create a scrupulous fear of “making the wrong decision,” but rather seeking to please God in all we do in the light of faith.
- Able to Finish: Now it is easy to be enthusiastic and even sacrificial for a day. Love proves itself and matures over time. Perseverance is essential to love. Wedding vows beautifully reflect this determination to love for a lifetime: “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.” Following Jesus requires calculating the cost of enduring to the end. There is something deeply inspiring about the soul that perseveres in love. We admire the aged couple that still holds hands. We respect the elderly priest or nun who still prays with fervor. Their example gives us the hope of seeing our own journey to the end. God’s grace and the sacrifices that fidelity entail are the means by which we persevere in love.
Conversing with Christ: Dear Lord Jesus, I cannot know what the future holds. To say “yes” to you for a lifetime can be frightening. Do I have what it takes? Help me to understand that your love and grace will sustain me when I am weak. Help me to renew frequently my love for you in the smallest of tasks. Let me keep my eyes focused on you and not on the sacrifices. You have been so good to me. I desire to follow you until you call me to be with you in heaven.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will prayerfully reflect before making any significant decision today: “Lord, what would you have me do?”
For Further Reflection: You can read this article on “What is discernment?” in Aleteia.
Written by Fr. John Bullock, LC.