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Men of the Old Testament
Wednesday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time
Great crowds were traveling with him, 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, everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”
Opening Prayer: O God, you are God and Father of us all. You welcome my poor attempt to pray. Strengthen my weak heart and fill me with your grace.
- Thin the Ranks: Jesus’ bold challenge to his disciples is shocking. It’s as if he wished to thin the ranks of his followers! In Judges 7, we read of Israel’s leader Gideon, who, with a host of some thirty-two thousand soldiers, opposed Midian and Amalek. Surprisingly, “The Lord said to Gideon: ‘You have too many soldiers with you for me to deliver Midian into their power, lest Israel vaunt itself against me and say, “My own power saved me.”’” God permitted nearly the entire army to disband, and with only three hundred men won a great victory. This is a mysterious lesson about the power of God. The only Son of God died for all men; the one Catholic Church is the sacrament of salvation among all mankind; and one disciple who carries his cross sanctifies the whole mystical body of Christ.
- Make a Choice: Jesus exhorts us to realism. Don’t start a tower you can’t finish. Don’t fight a battle you can’t win. Be strategic; make the tough choices. In other words, let’s make the love of Christ our number one priority. We look into the eyes of Jesus and know he means it: “If you want to follow me, then follow me with everything, wholeheartedly, or not at all.” In Joshua 24, we read how Joshua exhorted the Israelites: “Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve him completely and sincerely. Cast out the gods your ancestors served…if it is displeasing to you to serve the Lord, choose today whom you will serve… As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
- True Renunciation: What does renunciation really mean? It cannot mean to throw away all we own, or simply do without it. Renunciation means recognizing that everything we have—including relationships with loved ones—comes from the Lord and therefore should be entrusted to him. In 2 Samuel 7, the Lord recalled his countless gifts to the king. “I took you from the pasture, from following the flock, to become ruler over my people Israel. I was with you wherever you went, and I cut down all your enemies before you. And I will make your name like that of the greatest on earth…” David possessed very much—health, riches, wisdom, strength. But what did David do? He “renounced” these possessions by accepting them humbly and praising God’s name. He did not try to stop God’s largesse. “Do, then, bless the house of your servant, that it may be in your presence forever—since you, Lord God, have promised!” May we joyfully welcome and embrace the gifts of God in our lives, never forgetting from where they come.
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, your words are difficult. Sometimes I must literally renounce possessions or relationships because I follow you, while at other times I must simply entrust them to you, again and again. Help me to discern the difference, and never allow anything to be an obstacle to my discipleship.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will make an examination of conscience, asking for the light to discover anything which distracts me from following you.
For Further Reflection: Read and reflect on the short book of Ecclesiastes.
Deacon Erik Burckel, LC, is a religious in preparation for the priesthood. He writes articles and short stories for diverse purposes and publications, and can be reached at email@example.com.