September 8, 2019 — Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s readings make very clear the demands that will be made of those wanting to be called disciples of Christ. We must be prepared to give our all to Him. But in the end, the life of discipleship — the stewardship way of life — is the only life that can truly satisfy.
Our First Reading, from the ancient book of Wisdom, prepares us for the challenging teaching that will follow in today’s Gospel passage. “Who can know God’s counsel or who can conceive what the Lord intends? For the deliberations of mortals are timid… the corruptible body burdens the soul and the earthen shelter weighs down the mind that has many concerns.”
Weighed down by financial woes, relationship stress, illness — all the concerns of modern life (and apparently, ancient life, too) — how can we possibly concern ourselves with anything more than these immediate needs? Our human “earthly” instincts limit our ability to think with an eternal perspective. But, a few verses later, we are told that God has sent His Holy Spirit from on high to assist us. “And thus were the paths of those on earth made straight.” Relying on the Holy Spirit, we can live indeed live for higher goals despite all the challenges of daily life.
But this way of life will not be easy, and our Lord, knowing well our human nature, must prepare us for the challenge. In the Gospel passage from Luke, Christ is very straightforward about the cost of living for the higher aims of discipleship. “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.” Our Lord is speaking here not of emotions, but rather of priorities. He must come first in all aspects of our lives. Period.
He goes on to say, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” In other words, it’s all or nothing. Compromise is simply not possible. Christ wants us to give all of ourselves, all aspects of our individual lives, our family life, our parish, over to Him and to the pursuit of His kingdom.
To further this point, Christ shares two parables. The first is about a builder who wants to construct a tower. Christ says that before beginning, the builder must sit down and consider the cost to see if he has what is needed to complete the project. The second parable is of a king facing a potential battle. Again, Christ says he must first consider if he has sufficient troops for success before he goes off headlong into battle. Discipleship will cost us, and we must be prepared to give it our all.
And just when we think our Lord might soften His message to make it a little more palatable, He goes further! “Anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” Why is our Lord being so demanding? Only because He knows us so well and loves us so much.
He knows that if we do not live with great intentionality — putting Him first before all else — we will easily be swallowed up by the earthly cares that weigh us down — our material things, our status, and our egos. He knows that these things cannot satisfy us. He knows this because He is our Maker, and He made us for more.
We are made to be His disciples, to seek after Him and His Kingdom. Embracing stewardship as a way life allows us to count the cost and then run after Him with all our might.