Daily Reflection
of Creighton University's Online Ministries
September 5th, 2010

Andy Alexander, S.J.

University Ministry and the Collaborative Ministry Office
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

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.
Luke 14

In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple. Luke 14

The reading from the book of Wisdom is simple and direct. We need God's gift of Wisdom in order to know God's ways and to make our path on earth straight. The second reading is a beautiful note from Paul, who is in prison with a slave who has become a Christian. Paul writes to the slave's owner, asking ask him to receive the slave, who is about to be released from prison, not as a slave but as a fellow follower of Christ.

The beginning of this Sunday's gospel can sometimes turn people off. Jesus' call to complete renunciation of everything that gets in the way of discipleship seems too extreme. Could it be possible for my "father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters" to get in the way of my following Jesus? And do I really have to reject even my "own life"? Jesus is asking total commitment of us. He isn't looking for us to limit our commitment to celebrating Mass on Sunday and avoiding evil. He expects us to live the Gospel and to announce the Good News to others, and to do this, knowing there will be a great cost.

For some of us, the great resistence might come from our families. However, I suspect the greatest resistence for most of us comes from two other places first: 1) our own hearts and 2) the cultural support group we all have around us. The first place where conversion happens is in our own hearts. Jesus is asking us to let him love us and to let him win over our hearts. We understand the challenge most when we know our own hearts well, when we understand the parts of our own hearts which resist the Gospel, the parts of each of us which need healing and conversion. This is where Jesus encourages us to prepare, to calculate if we have the resources to build what we need to build, to wage the battle we need to wage. Too often it is difficult for me to let go of ideas and strong feelings and habits I've had for many years. Jesus is inviting us to consider carefully what it will take to fully give him our hearts. Imagine someone addicted to cocaine who said she wanted to quit, but didn't get rid of her stash or break off ties with her user friends. Imagine a fellow wanting to confront his addiction to compulsive sexual liaisons, but doesn't take the step of blocking his access to social networking sites. We'd agree with Jesus: They aren't equipping themselves for what they need to do.

The second place we find a challenge for conversion to discipleship is in our friends and the circle of cultural support around us. Sometimes the society we live in, the values it espouses, are simply so contrary to the Gospel that it is difficult for us to see it. Is it possible that, in speaking to us today, Jesus might say his challenging words a bit differently?

"If anyone of you comes to me without hating your friends, associates,
and any part of the culture around you,
and even your own life - insofar as through these you are being shaped by any values contrary to the Gospel -
you cannot be my disciple."

I think of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador who was assassinated, martyred, for challenging the political leaders and soldiers of his day to renounce the injustice and violence they had found a justification for, but which could not be justified in light of the Gospel. In each of our cultures, there are values which conflict with the message of Jesus. Often, the Church leaders clearly speak out in defense of the Gospel in a very direct and counter-cultural way. At times, our political biases, our financial status, our racial prejudices are challenged by the Gospel of Jesus and the teaching of the Church. Jesus is calling us to complete renunciation of whatever is counter to the Gospel.

We might say, "I can't possibly renounce all my possessions. That would be irresponsible. I have a family. I need a roof over my head. I contribute to society and to my church."

Jesus' challenge becomes a meaningful call to action if we hear how it might apply to us and we reflect upon it more deeply.

I'm asking you to grow in the freedom it takes to follow me with all your heart. Renounce whatever turns your heart against me and my Word. Disassociate yourself from habits, stances, positions, parties, identities which are foreign to the spirit of generosity, self-sacrifice and love for others the way I love you. It will involve carrying a cross, but for everything you surrender, I will repay with more than you can ask or imagine.

If we need more resources for this commitment, we can ask for the graces we need. Jesus will always give us the graces to do what he asks us to do and he will always give us the graces he wants to give us, if we are open to them.

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