(Wisdom 9:13-18; Psalm 90:3-6,12-17; Philemon 9-10,12-17; Luke 14:25-33)
What it Means to Be a Disciple of Jesus Christ
Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27)
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus makes three very demanding statements. He says that if we want to be his disciples, we must “hate” our families, we must carry our cross, and we must renounce all our possessions. Statements like these can make us wonder if Jesus is trying to make us into disciples or if he is just trying to drive us away.
Fortunately, the Church takes a composite view of Scripture, looking at each passage within the context of the whole Bible. If we look at today’s reading this way, we see some apparent conflicts. For instance, St. John says that hatred is equal to murder and will lead to hell (1 John 3:15). And Jesus himself said, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13:34). So we have to measure Jesus’ one statement about “hating” against these commands to love and lay down our lives for each other.
Similarly, the other commands—to take up our cross and renounce everything—have to be measured against Jesus’ words about caring for children and his promise that his yoke is easy and his burden is light.
So if we put all of these passages together, we can see Jesus saying that love for God and obedience to his commands must take priority over everything else. He is telling us that if anyone asks us to do something that is opposed to God, we need to have the courage to say no to them.
Living as a disciple is demanding. It calls for self-denial, sacrifice, and suffering. Jesus even warns that we may face persecution (John 16:33). It will be tempting at times to make compromises and go with the crowd. Being a disciple is a major endeavor. Jesus wants us to count the cost of being a disciple, and he wants to give us the grace to see it through to the end.
“Lord, I want to follow you. Give me the strength to be your disciple.”
(Many thanks to The Word Among Us (www.wau.org) for allowing us to use meditations from their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission. The Word Among Us Mass Edition contains all the readings and a meditation for each of the daily and Sunday Masses.)
Sunday, September 8, 2013
Questions for Reflection/Discussion
- The first reading asks and answers the question: who can know the mind of God? The question is a challenging one: How can we as weak finite humans know “God’s counsel” (i.e., his mind and wisdom)? The answer is: those people who have received the Holy Spirit have been given that wisdom. We as Christians are those people. So, how much time do you spend praying and asking the Holy Spirit for God’s wisdom (for example, to better understand God’s plan for your life or your children’s)? What steps can you take to make the power of the Holy Spirit a greater reality in your life?
- In the responsorial psalm, why do you think numbering our days aright is tied to gaining “wisdom of heart”? What does the term “numbering our days aright” mean to you? How well are you at doing this?
- In the letter to Philemon St. Paul returns Onesimus, a man who had been Philemon’s slave, and asks Philemon to receive Onesimus as a brother and a partner – a brother in Christ instead of as a slave. Even today, there are people we can “enslave”, for example, by feeling superior, by not forgiving, by holding ourselves aloof, or by choosing to avoid them. How is God asking you to “set free” people in your life who may fall into any of these categories?
- In the Gospel, Jesus speaks of the cross each of us is asked to bear as his disciple. Jesus also tells us elsewhere that his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:30). When you have followed the Lord’s will during a difficult time, no matter the cost, what has been your experience?
- In the Gospel, Jesus also proclaims these challenging words: “In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). What do you think Jesus meant by these words? Are there any possessions that you have that have the potential to get in the way of being a disciple of Christ? If so, how far are you willing to go in taking the required actions to follow Christ’s words?
- The meditation ends with these words: “Being a disciple is a major endeavor. Jesus wants us to count the cost of being a disciple, and he wants to give us the grace to see it through to the end..” How would you describe the costs in your own life of being Jesus’ disciple? Jesus spoke these words to St. Paul: “My grace is sufficient” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Do you believe that these words of Jesus apply to you? In what way?
- Take some time now to pray and ask the Lord for all the grace you need to follow him and be his disciple. Use the prayer at the end of the meditation as a starting point