Pondering for Sunday, September 4, 2022

New Testament Eucharistic Readings for Sunday of Proper 18: Year C

Philemon 1-21 and Luke 14:25-33

“Now large crowds were traveling with Jesus; 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.”  (Luke 14: 25 – 26)

Hate?  Today’s English understanding of the word hate is way too strong for the way Jesus is intending to mean it, and the way the people around him understood it. Hate, the way we understand it today is to have a strong negative emotion towards someone. Jesus is using this term as mutually inclusive; he is saying you can’t be his disciple unless you have put everybody else aside, or behind him. Jesus is saying that while he is in the relationship, he must be the priority.

In our old Spanish class the language was much different than hate, a softer expression was used.  Jesus said (as translated from Spanish) unless we are willing to “postpone or put aside our parents, children, spouse, and siblings, we cannot be his disciples. 

Even the language that follows, from farming peasants to ruling kings, from lowest to highest, the costs of discipleship must be dealt with.  We must ask ourselves, first, if we think we are even able to pay the price. And then second, if we are willing to pay the price.

Jesus is not asking us to choose between him and the devil; that would be too easy.  Jesus is asking us to choose him over parents, spouse, children and siblings.  These might seem like hard choices but the truth is that if we make Jesus the priority we are better enabled to love parents, spouse, children and siblings.  Through Jesus we can love them and all people more deeply.

In this passage Jesus has shifted from talking to the twelve, to talking to the great multitude.  There is much enthusiasm at first but it turns into shallow delight in the walk towards Jerusalem. Jesus wants them to be well aware of what it means to keep his movement going.

Sometimes people who love this Church don’t want us to tell perspective new members about the cost of discipleship; about the cost of maintaining a Church.  They would rather postpone it until a more opportune time, or just drop it altogether.  Jesus says no. He wants to let them (and us) know right from the start the cost of the journey he is on to Jerusalem. He wants them (and us) to know that this is not a parade, but rather, a funeral procession. Now, who’s in?

The cost of discipleship is not about our possessions, but about being happy on the path to pleasing God and having eternal life.  We can’t afford not to be in. Following Jesus is a commitment to eternity.

As we listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, let us live to love, to serve, and to teach, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

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