“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. 14:26-27)
Wow! This is really confrontational, and makes me feel uncomfortable. This seems to contradict Jesus’ sayings to love God, love our neighbors and even love our enemies. Who was Luke writing to with such harshness? What can this mean for me today?
This shocking statement was addressed to the crowds who were following Jesus. They weren’t his disciples, but those interested in seeing and hearing this “prophet” and “miracle worker”. They may have been curious but had not made any commitment. Luke was writing to the Gentiles and those who may never have met Jesus personally. Do I fall into these categories?
To begin to understand; It helps to study the two parables that follow and are unique to Luke’s Gospel. The parable of the person wanting to construct a great tower and the ruler who is facing an enemy with twice as many troops are sobering. The parables demonstrate the importance of being honest and seriously reflecting or examining the issue before making a decision. They warn against rushing in without knowing the consequences.
It seems that Luke is warning us that it is not easy to be a disciple of Jesus. He is not discouraging us from being disciples but discouraging us from following Jesus without knowing the cost. Luke is trying to say “Wake Up”. Don’t be half- hearted. Make a real commitment to be a true disciple–not just a curious member of the crowd.
We are blessed to live in a country that professes to allow religious freedom and prides itself on our moral and humanitarian principles. We don’t usually face persecution for being Christian. But how seriously do we act on or live out the beatitudes? When voting on issues like immigration or bills that affect the social welfare of the very poor and marginalized, would Jesus recognize us as disciples or members of the crowd? Do we really put Jesus first; above our own interests and comforts? I believe this is the heart and challenge of todays Gospel.
Jan Ginzkey, OSB