Who can know God's counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends? For the deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans. For the corruptible body burdens the soul and the earthen shelter weighs down the mind that has many concerns. And scarce do we guess the things on earth, and what is within our grasp we find with difficulty; but when things are in heaven, who can search them out? Or who ever knew your counsel, except you had given wisdom and sent your holy spirit from on high? And thus were the paths of those on earth made straight.(P) The word of the Lord.
You turn man back to dust, saying, "Return, O children of men." For a thousand years in your sight are as yesterday, now that it is past, or as a watch of the night. (R)
You make an end of them in their sleep; the next morning they are like the changing grass, which at dawn springs up anew, but by evening wilts and fades. (R)
Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart. Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants! (R)
Fill us at daybreak with your kindness, that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days. And may the gracious care of the lord our God be ours; prosper the work of our hands for us! Prosper the work of our hands! (R)
I, Paul, an old man, and now also a prisoner for Christ Jesus, urge you on behalf of my child Onesimus, whose father I have become in my imprisonment; I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. I should have liked to retain him for myself, so that he might serve me on your behalf in my imprisonment for the gospel, but I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that the good you do might not be forced but voluntary. Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man and in the Lord. So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.(P) The word of the Lord.
Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, 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. Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, "This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish." Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops? But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms. In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
A police officer patrolling the streets saw two men fighting and a little boy standing alongside them crying and calling out, "Dad! Please stop fighting." The officer pulled the two men apart, and he turned to the boy and asked, "Which one is your Dad, boy?" Wiping off his tears the boy replied, "I don't know. That's what they're fighting about."
It might be easier for someone to follow Jesus if the person has no parents or family or possessions but certainly it is a great challenge if the person has any of them. The challenge could be even greater if the person is emotionally attached to people, things and places. In today's gospel Jesus identifies three groups of followers that cannot be his disciples:
He said, "If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple", Luke (14:26).
Why does Jesus require his followers to hate those whom the Bible commands them to love? For instance, the fifth commandment of the Old Testament scriptures urges people "to honor their father and mother so that they may live a long and full life", Exodus (20:12) and Deuteronomy (5:16). Jesus instructed his followers "to love their enemies, do good to those who hate them, bless those who curse them and pray for those who mistreat them", Luke (6:27-36). Jesus also commanded them to "love one another just as He has loved them", John (13:34). So, which teaching do they have to follow?
Here, Jesus was not teaching a new commandment to hate people but rather was calling for their undivided loyalty to Him which is above family loyalties and complete obedience to Him without allowing any room for compromise on beliefs in spite of their closeness or relationship.
Jesus said, "Anyone who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple", Luke (14:28). "Renounce" means "to give up a claim", "give up a right", to material things. It is a demand for total self-denial. That's to say, the followers of Jesus must be willing to forego any ease, convenience, comfort, honor, or pleasure for a higher purpose. Their desire for Jesus must be such that it should impel them to be detached from their possessions and share them instead with those in need.
Then Jesus told the crowds two short stories, Luke (14:28-32), to illustrate the nature of discipleship. The first story is about a tower builder who was wise enough to sit down beforehand and estimate the cost to see if he had enough money to finish the job. Otherwise he would expose himself to ridicule and humiliation. The second story is about a king who was wise enough to assess the strength of his troops beforehand and sought reconciliation and peace with his powerful enemy. Both stories warn Jesus' followers of the danger of insufficient planning and a lack of perseverance.
What is the message for us?
The cost of becoming a true and faithful disciple of Jesus is indeed high. The cost could be avoided if we are non-believers or non-Christians. But since we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and, have decided to follow Him, we are called upon to love Him more than our possessions, our families or ourselves; to carry our own cross and give up everything we have to follow Him, Luke (14:28).
Even though it seems not easy for anyone to literally give up everything, and follow Jesus, many people have chosen to completely follow Him in the two thousand years of the history of the Church. For instance, when Jesus called the fishermen, Simon and his brother Andrew, they immediately left their boat and nets, which were their means of livelihood, and followed Him. In a similar way, the sons of Zebedee, James and John, left their boat and their father and followed Jesus, Matthew (4:18-22), Mark (1:16-20), Luke (5:2-11).
In the years immediately after Pentecost, the early Church chose to live the teaching of Jesus in a fundamental way. We learn from the Acts of the Apostles that the Christians in Jerusalem sold all their possessions and shared everything equally with the community. Many saints sought to follow Jesus Christ by living in a particularly fundamental way. For example, Saint Francis of Assisi, born into a wealthy family, in answering Gods' call, took all his rich clothes and sold them, and used all the proceeds to rebuild an old church much to the dismay of his father, who disowned him afterwards.
Saint John Baptist de la Salle, born of an honourable family, sold his property and gave the money to the poor. Saint Anthony of Egypt, a prosperous peasant gave away some of the property that he received after the death of his parents, to his neighbours and sold the rest and donated the proceeds to the poor. He then left to live an ascetic life. Even today religious priests and nuns are forbidden to own personal possessions but like the early Christians they are required to surrender all their possessions to their congregation to be used for the good of the community, Acts (2:44).
Simon of Cyrene literally took up the cross for Jesus's sake. In the notorious inhuman Nazi extermination camp, Saint Maximillian Kolbe volunteered to take the place of a Polish soldier who had been chosen to be a victim of retaliatory execution for the escape of a prisoner. Missionaries volunteer to leave their homes, land, people, and culture, and dedicate their life to preach the gospel and perform deeds of love, far away from home, in the name of Jesus. So there are hundreds of thousands of people who have forsaken everything and followed Jesus wholeheartedly.
However, there is no one particular and perfect way of following Jesus. We, each one of us, can authentically follow Jesus in our own way. We must only remember that following Jesus is a life-long commitment, and we must learn to count the cost of our commitment to Him. In other words, it is important that we take charge of our faith in Jesus Christ and persevere till the end despite the cost we pay for Jesus says, "He who endures to the end will be saved", Matthew (24:13). Let us be counted among those who are faithful to the end.(P) Amen.
God Bless You!