Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, 4th September 2022

Luke 14:25–33

Now large crowds were travelling with him; and he turned and said to them, 'Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, "This fellow began to build and was not able to finish." Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

In the preceding parable (14:16-24),Jesus tells us of a man who invited many friends to a great supper, but one and all found some excuse for not coming. The host then sent for the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. The reference is to the banquet in the kingdom of God. The leaders of the Chosen People refused to come. The ordinary sinners, outcasts according to the Pharisees, and the Gentiles, would flock to the kingdom in their place. Jesus now warms that certain conditions must be fulfilled before they can really enter the kingdom.

Jesus told them whoever comes to me must be ready to sacrifice even what is nearest and dearest to him, if it comes between him and Christ.

Turning his back on father, mother and relatives, does not mean deserting or denying them. Jesus’ very self shows this: one cannot desert oneself. What it means is that if one’s relatives or one’s own evil inclinations prevent one from following Christ, one must oppose them and do what is right.

Accepting Christianity at any time or place, but especially in Palestine at the beginning, meant of necessity making a great sacrifice. The Jews persecuted and cast out of the family any member who became a Christian, unless the whole family became Christian. The Gentile converts in the early Church also suffered much from their families and neighbours. Hence Christ forewarns prospective followers of the difficulties they were to encounter.

The two parables, one about the building of a tower and another about the king going to war, help to emphasize the necessity of considering carefully before deciding to follow Christ. Failures would bring no credit to themselves or to Christ. Rather they would make a mockery of themselves and doubly endanger their possibility of attaining salvation.
Jesus shows the parables as being intended to bring out the need for careful consideration before following him. He had to be followed sincerely and truly, or not at all. At the time there were many among the Jews who thought that he would be a political king, who would set free from the hated rule of pagan Rome. These were anxious to join him. But he gradually made it clear to them that his kingdom was not of this world. They then lost interest in him.

But Jesus reminded them to renounce all and to understand in the sense that one’s possessions must not impede one from following him sincerely. There are religious men and women who exclude by vow all right to possessions, but they are relatively few. The vast majority of Christians are not asked or expected to give up their property, even in the limited legal sense of the vow of poverty, unless their possessions prevent them from living the Christian life.

The essential condition for true discipleship, demanded by Christ, was, and still is, total dedication, total commitment of oneself to him. There can be no such person as a half-Christian. “He that is not with me is against me,” he said on another occasion. We cannot be for Christ on Sunday and against him for the other six days of the week. To be his true disciples, his true follower, we must live our Christian life every day and all day. Amen.