November 5, 2008
Wednesday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time
Luke 14: 25-33
Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, "If any one 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, everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.
Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for your friendship, for your patience, and for your grace. I cannot live without you. “Let me never be separated from you” (from the Communion Rite in the Order of the Mass). Let me grow in faith to see you in all things. Let me grow in hope to wait patiently for you in all circumstances. Let me grow in love to serve you in all people.
Petition: Lord, grant me the grace of tenacity in following you.
1. Who Is This Man?
“If any one 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.” The first question most likely to come to anyone’s mind after hearing this demand is, “Who does this man think he is?” Who can claim an allegiance higher than the love we have for our parents, our spouses or our children? No one aspiring simply to be a moral teacher could exact such adherence. Actually, no human authority could legitimately require it. Only when we understand who it is who makes these demands do they make sense (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, Chapter 5). In another passage, Jesus said, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10). “If you knew…” The central question of the Gospel is the identity of Christ. Only when we recognize him as the Son of the Living God does everything else begin to make sense (Ibid.).
2. Carrying the Cross
Christ doesn’t stop there. In addition to asking for a love greater than the love we have for those closest to us, he asks us to take up our cross to follow him. It seems contradictory that someone who is looking for our love would want us to suffer because of it. “Don’t you love me?” might be our protest. His reply would be, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends” (John 15:13). Christ loved us first by offering himself for our salvation (cf. 1 John 4:9-10). In order to participate in the love he offers us, we must share in his charity for our brothers and sisters: “If we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:12). However, for that love to be real, we have to be willing to put others first and to forget self. That requires sacrifice – carrying the cross.
3. Finish the Job
“Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost…?” Christ is very realistic in his understanding of human nature. It’s not enough to decide to do something; it’s not enough to say you want to do it; you have to put in place the means to do it and then follow through. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Perseverance in doing God’s will is a gift of grace for which we must ask. The saints, especially the martyrs, give wonderful examples of fidelity to the end. In a letter to Queen Elizabeth and her council, Edmund Campion, SJ, knowing that he would eventually be captured and executed, wrote: “And touching our Society, be it known to you that we have made a league… cheerfully to carry the cross you shall lay upon us, and never to despair your recovery, while we have a man left to enjoy your Tyburn, or to be racked with your torments, or consumed with your prisons. The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun; it is of God, it cannot be withstood. So the Faith was planted: so it must be restored” (Campion’s Brag, 9).
Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, help me to be consistent in my prayer, consistent in fulfilling my duties, consistent in charity. Let my resolutions become actions and my actions become habit. I realize that this won’t be easy, but I have confidence in the assistance of your grace.
Resolution: Lord Jesus, let me follow through with one resolution for the remainder of this week.
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