by Orlando Hernandez
This Wednesday’s Gospel is from the section of Luke’s Chapter 14 that tells about what will be demanded of a follower of Jesus. I wonder how many people remained in the “Great crowds” after hearing what Jesus expected of them!
“ and He turned and addressed them, ‘If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.’” (Lk 14:25-27)
Jesus goes on to tell them of the builder, and the king marching into battle who do not have what it takes to succeed. What does it take to make it as a disciple of Christ? How does a disciple of Christ keep his or her “taste” like good salt? (Lk 14: 34-35) The Lord says in todays Gospel: “everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” (Lk 14: 33)
The Lord presents these challenges all over the Gospel of Luke. For example: in chapter 9: 57-62, The Conditions of Discipleship; in chapter 8: 11-15, The Parable of the Sower; in chapter 6: 20-26, the Sermon on the Plain; and in chapter 18: 18-30, the story of the rich official who wants to follow Him. After the rich official leaves disappointed, the disciples ask Jesus: “Then who can be saved?”
Over the last few weeks I have been talking with leaders of prayer groups, evangelization brotherhoods, Knights of Columbus, Passionist Associate Directors. At some point or another they would complain sadly about how the majority of the members are not coming to the meetings. Their excuses are similar to those cited by the Gospel: “I had to work late at the business.”, “My husband wants me home.”, “I have to take the kids to soccer.”, “I’m so tired, the boss is giving me a hard time.”, and so on….. The initial enthusiasm , the taste of salt, seems to be fading, the light on the lamp stand getting dimmer. I often find myself falling into this darkening. Please Lord, don’t let me go!
How exclusive, really, is this fellowship with the Lord? What are the requirements after all? To be invited to the Feast of the Lord it seems to help to be part of “the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.” (Lk 14:15-24) In the next chapter (Lk 15) we see that perhaps if you realize that you are lost in the night like that little sheep, then the Shepherd will come for you with great joy and love. Or, if you see your total poverty and foolishness, and feel true repentance, the Father will come running down the road to embrace you!
This is so much beyond my understanding. When I knew that I could not live without the Beautiful One who had revealed Himself to me, I jumped head long into His arms, without realizing what I was getting into. Was I like the unprepared builder, the understaffed king, the seed in rocky, or thorny ground? I imagine so. I have given up a lot for Him, but I fail Him so many times. I cling to so many pleasures and possessions: “What would I do without my retirement pension, or my health? I adore my grandchildren, my wife.”
Perhaps my mistake lies in that use of the word “my”. None of these things are really mine. As Christians, most of us eventually will understand that all these wonderful things are really not ours, but His, blessed be His most merciful heart! Actually, most of the people in our planet are lacking them. He tells everyone in today’s Gospel to “carry his own cross and come after me”. Come where? Where else but Calvary itself, where He lost everything, even His life. We are all headed there. Through aging, loss, or misfortune, sooner or later we will understand the total poverty of our situation. The only treasure we have is Him, not because we deserve this treasure, but because He loves us so much.