13th Sunday, Year A

Cost and Demands of Discipleship

Let us take a look at the Acts of the Apostles, which gives us some powerful insights into the beginning and the growth of the church after the feast of the Pentecost. The apostles were transformed and were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit to be zealous missionaries to fulfill the command of the Lord. They were no more frightened, but became courageous to proclaim, what they have seen, heard and experienced in their life about person of Christ. Think about those 50 years after Jesus’ death, the struggles and difficulties the disciples had to endure for their beloved master. Before the last one died their efforts had brought 500,000 men, women, and children into the ranks of the church. They were vibrant Christian communities. There was no compromise, but commitment, fidelity and total dedication to their mission was very evident. History tells us that every Apostle shed their blood for Christ.
We have the apostle Paul, turning away from an ardent persecutor to an ardent believer and beheaded after becoming the greatest missionary of the gentiles. St. Francis of Assisi had to make a choice, he was willing to give away all that he had in order to posses the person of Christ. Similarly numerous saints made a radical choice in favor of the person of Christ rather than anyone or anything else. Look at the scenario today with so much of persecution and oppression on Christians. Christianity is not wiped out, but where there is fidelity it has grown and is growing in numbers, because it is the work of the Lord.

The primacy of Christ’s love – To love the neighbor in God: Today materialism and consumerism dominate our lives. There is a paradigm shift from God-centeredness to self-centeredness. The beginning of today’s Gospel: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; who loves son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me “(Mt 10:37) sounds incomprehensible, not to say inhuman. Also the following two verses: “Whoever does not take his own cross and follow me, is not worthy of me. Whoever has kept his life for himself, will lose it, and who will lose his life for my cause, will find it “(Mt 10, 38-39) are not easily understandable. If we reason like the Jews and the Greeks of two thousand years ago, we would consider these phrases of Christ foolish and scandalous.

Therefore, let us understand their wise rationality, taking into account what Saint Paul states: ” For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom; and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Cor. 1: 22-25).

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me….” These words may sound a bit extreme, since family comes first for most of us. 1) What Jesus means is that all loyalties must give place to loyalty to God.  God is to be loved with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. We should have the absolute primacy for God and everything else is secondary. It is the ability and courage to stand for truth and the values of the gospel when we are confronted with unfavorable situations. If members of one’s family   act unjustly, one must, in conscience, separate oneself from them. He is giving a warning to his disciples of the conflicts and misunderstandings they will experience through their living out the word and thus becoming prophets, proclaiming God’s Will and living presence among His people through their own lives.

We need to be ready to take up our cross and lose our life for Christ: The cross stands for unconditional forgiveness, the total emptying of ourselves of our wants and needs for the sake of another, and the courageous, consistent choosing to do what is right and just.   The main   paradox of the Christian life is that we must lose life in order to find Life, and we must die to ourselves in order to rise again. (“Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”). We live in a world where “finding their lives” is the paramount ambition of the majority of people. But Jesus tells us very clearly that this should not be our main concern. What he asks of us is that we should “lose this life” which means that we must stop living for ourselves alone.   Whatever we do for others is credited, because we are doing for the love of God.

We live in a competitive society that believes in power and influence for a successful life. The values of the Gospel are totally different and Jesus’ argument is that when we work hard to ensure that everyone has enough, there will be enough for us, too. Hence the question we should ask is:  Am I living my life at the expense of others? Am I trying to live in solidarity with others?  Am I aware of people in my area who are in real need? In the words of Mother Teresa, “The Gospel is written on your fingers.” Holding up her fingers, one at a time, she accented each word: “You-Did-It-To-Me.” Mother Teresa then added: “At the end of your life, your five fingers will either excuse you or accuse you of doing it unto the least of these.”

The Primacy of Christ’s Love in the family: When the Messiah says that He must be loved by us more than our father and our mother, does not mean to erase the fourth commandment, which is the first great commandment towards people. When family affairs are converted to the witness of the Gospel, they become capable of unthinkable things that make us aware of the works of God, the works that He does in history like those that Jesus did for the men, the women and the children whom he met. He asks us to love our dear ones in God, that is to live love in Love, in the today’s Gospel Christ teaches us that in order to do a gesture of love little is enough: “Whoever will have given just a glass of fresh water to one of these little ones, because he is my disciple, in truth I say to you, he will not lose his reward.” Every gesture of love and welcome, even the simpler, the less demanding, the one that apparently does not count, is not rated along the parameters of modern economy, utility, and performance, in the same way as that of a glass of water given to those who ask for it, if done with love and for love, will not lose his reward in front of God