Meditation of the week

The priority of the Gospel

Luke 14,25-33.

Luke informs us that great crowds accompany Jesus on his way (to Jerusalem). They are enthused that he is on the way to Jerusalem, hoping he is about to make his Messianic claims and establish an earthly kingdom.  The theme of the cost of following Jesus runs like a refrain through his gospel (9,57-62; 18,24-30, and here). In the preceding section Jesus told a Parable of the Invited Guests who excused themselves from attending a banquet for personal reasons, resulting in their places being taken by those invited from the highways and byways.

In this section Jesus brings his followers down to earth by spelling out very clearly the cost of  following him. The “hate” spoken of is a Semitic way of saying “love less”.  Anyone who doesn’t love  his father or mother less than they love Jesus is not worthy to be his disciple. Anyone who doesn’t put the claims of Jesus before those of father or mother is not worthy to be his disciple. Anyone who is not prepared to follow him along the path of total self-denial and self-sacrifice, (cross), is not worthy of him.

He then gives two concrete examples of applying the principle he has just enunciated. If one of you  were to plan to  build a tower, you would sit  down first, and estimate whether you had enough money to do the job.  An unfinished tower would earn one neighbourly scorn.

Similarly, a king going to battle would make sure he was able to win, otherwise he would sue for peace. Jesus is warning his listeners that following him was the most serious undertaking they could assume and it deserves as much care and consideration as one would give to a building or a military project. No one will enter the kingdom on a tide of emotion or by accident but by the clear-sighted deliberation and solid commitment that Jesus is calling for.  The follower must give up all he/she has and is and follow Jesus.

Jesus is saying that following him, I.e the  Christian way of life will be difficult.  It involves self -denial, self- discipline and taking up one’s cross, in the various duties, burdens, demands, troubles, illnesses, aches , pains, disappointments, set-backs, frustrations,  sacrifices and temptations  which we may meet in life.

These requirements of Jesus would have reduced the number of his followers, as they do today. The demands and the ideals which Jesus sets before us seem well- nigh impossible to attain.  But following him is a life-long project; something to be achieved in stages.  What matters is that we want to follow him and keep trying.

It is very important to work out for ourselves why we should follow Jesus. One important reason is that he has asked/invited us to do so? Can you think of other reasons why you/everyone should follow him?

Can you name the reasons why you want at this moment to follow Jesus?

What excuses do people give for not following him?

What do you think are the main changes which you need to make in your life to enable you to follow Jesus more closely? What help has he already given you to enable and encourage you to follow him more closely?  What help would you like?

Father Geoff O’Grady