September 9, 2007
ORDINARY 23 (C)
Whoever does not carry his own cross & come after me cannot be my disciple. – Luke 14: 27
Jesus does not offer the crowds any fantasies of an easy life. Instead of mollifying them in any way, he confronts them. The time had come to sort out the serious from the curious. The simple hunger for religious meaning may be in all people, but the drive to discipleship definitely is not. Traveling with Jesus but not following Him is common enough. It may not signal lack of faith, or cowardice or moral failure. It may be that some people, perhaps many, are not capable of continued strenuous acts of spiritual integrity. They cannot sustain the long-haul commitment that Jesus insists is necessary.
Following Jesus should not be mindless. Those who would be disciples must think about what it entails. It is like building a tower, a connection between heaven & earth. What will it take to finish it? It is like taking on larger forces with smaller forces, risking battle even though overmatched. How will this uphill battle be sustained? We must assess our resources & evaluate our resolve. It is not advisable to sign up under the flush of inspiration or in secret pursuit of anything other than the project of the Cross. We need to make a decision with all the practical wisdom of a cost-conscious builder & a battle-hardened king.
This doesn’t mean we won’t have mixed motives. Life is never that simple. Looking back on my own vocation, I can now recognize that there were times when I did the right thing for all the wrong reasons, & I’m still learning. But for those who stick with it, the Lord has a way of painfully clarifying the issues for us.
Possessions are whatever we hold onto that competes with our communion with the Lord & cooperation with His mission, i.e., substitute absolutes. It is not just a matter of freeing ourselves from material holdings or social positions, but it is also a matter of purging our mind of its secret fantasies & its habits of domination that yield attitudes like “cross me & you will regret it.” Ultimately, it isn’t about getting our way, but seeing to it that the Lord gets His.
It has been said that there are 2 types of freedom: choice freedom & creative freedom. In choice freedom, the outer world presents us with options, & we choose. It is the usual way we work & its mechanisms are well established. We pick through possibilities according to what we think is best for us. The necessary skill is to become a good rather than a poor picker. From this perspective, discipleship is all sacrifice, meaning giving up things we really want.
Creative freedom, on the other hand, does not begin by reacting to what is happening. It means pulling ourselves out of the many manifestations of the worldly life & concentrating ourselves into a transcendent center grounded in God. Here, sacrifice is the act of self-giving that makes life holy, that fashions a future that has never been seen before. It is the energy that the sons & daughters of the Holy One bring to building the tower & opposing seemingly superior forces. Our Lord wants to make it clear that his kind of freedom is not for the faint-hearted, but for real lovers. Amen!