The cost of following Jesus

4 September, 2022 23rd Sunday Year C

We often speak of learning from our mistakes, even though we sometimes fail to do so. Likewise, if you are interested in sport, you will often hear sportsmen or women speak of “taking the positives” from a contest they have lost, especially if it’s a narrow loss.

As human beings we are naturally inquisitive and our search for meaning goes on from our earliest years until our dying day. We learn by trial and error, like so many great discoveries, by experimentation and reflection.

Much of our knowledge comes through learning in “the school of life itself” and frequently “the school of hard knocks.” It is not surprising then that throughout the scriptures, we find many of the authors almost pleading with us to stop and reflect on what is going on both in our own lives and in the world around us.

The wisdom books are particularly adept at challenging us in this way. So too does Jesus who is constantly asking us to look around and take note of the wonder of nature, and more importantly to look into ourselves and note our reactions in a variety of circumstances. The book of Wisdom itself invites us to accept the fact that we struggle to make sense of much of what is going on, but it also paves the way for what Jesus will teach us, namely that it is the spirit of God who will lead us to the truth.

St Paul realised that Christ was the Wisdom of God made manifest and all his teaching reflects this understanding, including the wonderful practical advice he gives to his friend Philemon about making peace with his former slave, Onesimus, who for some reason had run away.

Jesus invites us to follow him, but he is well aware of the demands that will be made if we accept his invitation. It is in that context that we can better understand his almost unpalatable teaching that our families might prove an obstacle to us in following him. Sometimes we need to be shocked before we get the message and undoubtedly this has something to do with Jesus’ message about taking up the cross.

Clearly, he cannot be changing his fundamental teaching that we must “love our enemies and do good to those who hate us”, in warning us that even the members of our families may not understand and might want to prevent us from giving up everything else for his sake. To reinforce his point, he offers us two very mundane examples – a builder preparing to build, a king preparing for battle – of calculating the pros and cons before making a decision.

Jesus invites us to be his disciples and we are continually learning more and more about the cost of that discipleship. As we weigh the pros and cons in our present situations, is he asking us to make a deeper commitment to him today?

Tim Buckley CSsR

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