by: Bro. Martin Nguyen
The Gospel today tells us about the demands of discipleship; however, before answering Jesus’ call, shall we pause for a while to reflect about who we are in the light of the gratuitousness of our vocation? Then we may thrill with delight and accept the cost of Jesus’ discipleship with greater resolution than which we were before.
Great crowds travelling with Jesus (Lk 14:25a) catches our attention and curiosity. And we want to know what is happening, later we may decide to join them. Jesus starts to tell us what one person needs to do in order to be his disciple. What a harsh demand! Therefore, quite few of us could response to it totally. How difficult to do such detachment of family, of self and to carry our “own cross”! That’s why Jesus carries on with his explanation and gives us the analogy to reflect upon.
For me, Jesus’ two phrases: “If anyone comes to me” and “Which of you wishing” remind me about the moment I was meditating about who I am that God has chosen and called me. The decision to follow Him came only after the realization about how wonderful God has been showing His love and mercy in my life. Therefore, why we do not start our reflection on God’s gratuitous call in our lives before figuring out that Jesus is not overburdening us with His discipleship’s conditions?
Let us meditate the story of a woman caught in adultery (Jn 8: 1-11)? Have I experienced in my life any similar circumstances that the death sentence either bodily or spiritually is approaching me and nobody on earth could save me from that terrifying moment? Yes I remember that more than once Jesus “bent down” to my level of shame and humiliation in public and of fear of coming death not to condemn me. He lifted me up, rescued me by making my accusers give up their plan of killing me. That life-changing moment demands me to get rid of my old self and to start a new life. The NRSV translated the last words Jesus said to the woman as “Go your way” (Jn 8: 11). Before having been brought to the Temple for my sentence, I did not know Him personally. He could be a respected person that my accusers asked Him for His opinion but I could not expect anything miraculous from this man, whatever he might say would not spare me from being stoned. Now, I am saved, I am grateful to Him and want to run away from every people including Him. Therefore, it was very appropriate that Jesus did not ask me to follow Him right after that moment. Only by spending time afterward to figure out what I should do from now on, this is the moment for me to decide whether I should follow Him or not. He will save me again if I fall into danger. I need to be with Him, my Savior.
Another situation of my life could be similar to the blind beggar near Jericho whom Jesus healed (Mk 10:46-52). The name “Jesus of Nazareth” is familiar with me since He did so many miracles told by people to me. This is my chance so the crowd cannot stop my loud voice of longing to be healed. Of course, now I can see and I will follow Him to glorify God who showed His mercy on me. I will tell more people to “come to” Him in order to be cured. The decision of following Jesus is a must to me; I have been waiting for years.
Perhaps our life is not as desperate as those two persons but surely more than once, we have been miraculously saved only by the mercy of God. So, we cannot hesitate to follow Him who is the surest protector of our life. The decision must come from my holistic self and from my thorough discernment about what have happened to me and about His call in my most desperate situation. I am so happy since He calls me personally even though I am not worthy. He is opening widely his arms to welcome me, a sinner, and giving me chance to make a meaningful turn of my life. Therefore, I need to take it without hesitance then conform myself to be strong and ready for the demand of the Kingdom of God. This is the life-changing moment for a better “me” as I always wished for.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus once told us about the price of being His followers (Lk 9: 23-25). By asking “What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?”, Jesus reveals that the glory of this world is nothing to compare with the Kingdom of God. And today, Jesus asks us to detach from our dearest family and to give up our own life in order to be totally free in following Him. He uses the examples of building a tower and of dealing with stronger opponent to affirm the importance of being wise to discern the sign of our life such as what we should do in responding to what we have realized. Is there anything on earth for example wealth, knowledge, career, and even our dear family can promise an eternal happiness for us? Therefore, God has bestowed on us His grace to recognize whom we should listen to and respond to His voice with immense joy since He has showed His mercy in our lives.
Truly the demands of discipleship are quite tough. As Metz wrote in his book “Followers of Christ” that: “following Christ is included among the dominant ideas of what is feasible and interpreted according to trusted patterns of feasible behavior”. For him, to follow Jesus means “something more radical and more dangerous: putting Christ on (cf. Rom 13:14)”. If we do not internalize our saving experience with God, if we do not possess a strong will of becoming a better person for ourselves first, or if we are so pleased with this superficial world and do not want a much wonderful life promised to us, we would find Jesus’ request irrelevant. God does not take away our freedom; in fact the Sunday Gospel two weeks ago, Jesus told us that “narrow door” (Lk 13: 24) is the only way to enter the Kingdom of God. Therefore if we do not listen to and act upon what Jesus requires us, which is doing God’s will, the doors of God’s Kingdom will not open for us.
In general, on the human level, no one can satisfy the demands of Jesus’ discipleship. It is beyond what we can do by our own capacity. However, we should not forget that many people in the history of our Church responded generously to God’s call in their lives. Surely the grace of God was always with them to assist them to fulfill what they needed to perform. As human being, many times they fell to temptation and then stood up to correct their errors. Therefore, we should not lose hope whenever we cannot resist our human weakness. We need to learn from their lives how to carry out what Jesus is asking us to do. Following Jesus is not only the moment we say yes to Him. It is a process that we have to do our best in every second of our lives, to learn from our mistakes and also to rely totally on God’s grace. Our journey with God will have imprints of our feet and God’s too. We look back and see that many moments God carried us and some instants there were four footprints. Gratefulness pushes us to follow Him more closely even when we know that other people may consider us as foolish but the very great reward is waiting for us in heaven.