C Cycle – 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time 22
There are times when Jesus speaks to us bluntly, directly, and deliberately uses a tone and words to shake our belief system. When Jesus says in this gospel, we cannot be his disciples unless we renounce those we love and that just does not make sense to us. Did not God give Moses a tablet inscribed with a commandment stating we shall “honor our mother and father” (Ex. 20:12).
I am willing to bet you, that most people who hear this gospel will ignore the words of Jesus and continue living their faith by doing familiar things. If being a disciple means hating our parents and children, then we will consider our alternatives. If we choose not to respond to the call to discipleship, is it possible, we can still follow the commandments and be faithful. Is that a bad place to be? How can it be a bad place for that is where most Christians live out their spiritual lives.
It is a place where we are comfortable in but is that helping us experience the presence of God each day. When we do not understand how the death of Jesus restored our relationship with God, we will continue to strive for God’s approval instead of his healing embrace. Today these words of Jesus challenge us to look inward and answer the question, “what are we seeking.”
In fact, if you are paying attention the gospel messages, we have been hearing over these past few weeks we have been challenged to ask ourselves what we are seeking. If we believe there are individuals called to live a life of holiness that is unattainable by us because those people are at a different level of faith. They are called to a life of discipleship, and we are not. Mother Theresa is an example of one who certainly picked up her cross daily and she understood the cost of discipleship. We believe some individuals are called to a vocation of giving up marriage for the sake of responding to the call of Christ.
But we are not among those are we, therefore we have a different mindset about our decision to live a life of faith. We can marry, advance in our careers, have children, spoil them, go on vacations, and enjoy the fruits of our labor. All God requires of us is to follow the commandments and practice our faith. But is that not the kind of life Jesus is telling us we are called to live, nor is it what Jesus has shown us by his own life. Jesus came to show us the way. He came to reveal the Father’s desire for us to love God with our whole hearts, mind, and strength.
We will never grow in our faith if we cannot move beyond living a moderate faith where we never accept the challenge to step out of the boat and begin to walk in faith. Think about it for a minute; if our concept of living our faith is to play it safe and just do what we believe is acceptable to God then we are stagnating. We are missing the grace of the cross and ignoring the call to respond to that grace.
Our call to become disciples began at our own baptism as we were anointed as priest, prophets, and kings. Priests by ministering God’s grace to everyone we encounter. Prophet by listening to God speak to our hearts and becoming bold in our witness to the gospel by proclaiming the promises of God to the hurting, the broken, the searching and the proud pharisees among us. Kings by understanding we are called to live in the kingdom of God here on earth. We are heirs of the kingdom and God has given us dominion over it and to make it grow and multiply.
Discipleship is hard because we must have our minds renewed, our eyes refocused and our hearts burning with desire to bring Jesus to others. Disciples are more than faithful practicing Catholics; we are renewed by the time we spent in worship, but we understand the call to discipleship is outside the walls of the church. Disciples are not lukewarm Christians, for we will never stir a desire in the hearts of anyone unless we have experienced what God offers all who follow him. Life, joy, peace, a certainty we are forgiven and loved not because we are holy but because we are his children.
If that is so, then we must respond to the words of Jesus instead of being dismissed by us as nor relevant to us. Jesus is not telling us to hate our mother and father. No, instead he is telling us to reprioritize our life so that we grow in our knowledge of him each day. Not intellectual knowledge but a relational knowing of intimacy with Christ. We do this by listening, by a prayer life that is active in praise, listening, reading of scripture, and responding when we know it grabs our attention.
Those are the actions of a disciple, and a disciple does them to become the person God created and gifted to serve the kingdom. We are called to be disciples. Paul p8ts it bluntly when he says we are predestined to conform to the image of Christ (Rom.8:29). Paul did not come up with that concept by himself because God told us that before we were born, “every day of (our lives) were recorded in his book, every moment was laid out, before a single day passed” (Ps.139:16). God has a plan for each of us and our discovering that plan is a priority. Living the life God planned for us as disciples comes before mother, father, wife, children and yes even acts of mercy and piety.