One fateful day, a farmer was resting in his farm house while it rained. Incidentally, the rain became so much that the entire farmland came under heavy flooding. The Farmer ran outside and climbed up to a tree and from a branch of the tree he prayed and asked God to save him and God assured him of assistance. Soon after a fellow farmer came along with a boat and offered to help him but the man said he should not worry that God is going to help him soon. Feeling rather disappointed, the man Left.
Thereafter a rescue team from the locality emerged and offered to help the man but he told them not to bother as God has assured him of more dependable help. Two other persons came to rescue the man but he preferred to wait for the heavenly assistance.
Meanwhile, the magnitude of the flooding increased until the tree was eaten up and the man got drowned and died. He eventually found himself before God and was upset that God could not rescue him as He promised and God told him that it was His will to save him and that was why He responded immediately by sending people to him but he declined their help. The man’s will was to have God save him and it was God’s will to save him but when the will of God manifested through the people that came to his rescue, the man could not connect with it. He actually wanted it in his own way not according to God’s irreprehensible will and way.
One thing we cannot easily grasp at our own time and pace is the Will of God for us. In fact, it seems so far-fetched that some people will often leave a space in their plans which says “if it is the will of God” or “if God permits.” Knowing God’s will for us generally and in particular situations may be as puzzling as trying to understand the whole of God.
Beyond the puzzles it seems to present to us, God’s will is not only indispensable, it also conditions and determines our lives. In fact, the safest place to be when confronted by challenges and troubles in the world is in the middle of God’s will. Why? The simple answer is that God has a plan for each and every one of us (Jer.29:11).
The First Reading today (Wisdom 9:13-18b) began by asking the question: “who can know God’s counsel or who can discern God’s will (intention)?” God’s will is not what we know by mere mental processing. God’s will is too enormous to be accommodated in our limited mental timeline. In fact, the passage made us know that our reasoning and deliberations are limited, worthless and fallible.
“How then can we know or learn the will of God considering our aforestated limitations?” We can do so by purposefully following God. By following God He leads us into the discovery and doing of His will. This actually formed the basis of the Gospel today (Luke 14:25-33).
The Gospel scene opened with the image of a great multitude that accompanied (travelled with) our Lord Jesus Christ. The number of people that went with him was indeed so much and like in the case of Gideon before he went to battle with the Midianites (Judges 7:3-7), there was a need to drop down the number and separate the real disciples from those who merely accompanied or travelled with him.
It will be very fitting for us to make a distinction here between these verbs “to accompany” (or travel with) and “to follow”. To accompany someone means to go with someone to some place. In this situation, there is some note of independence between the individual and the person going with him or her. The person often does not have any obligation towards the individual, the same way one could have co-travellers on the same flight. To follow someone, on the other hand, entails subscribing to the plans and directives of the individual in question. It means to take after someone’s footsteps. It means to be a disciple or an adherent.
From the analysis above, we understand that at that time our Lord Jesus Christ had many people accompanying him (co-travellers) but not following him and he wanted them to know that following him should not be confused with accompanying or travelling with him. He was getting closer to Jerusalem, the city he must enter before his passion and death that would bring about our salvation. He needed to enter Jerusalem with followers, not co-travellers.
The next instruction was for the real followers. Just like Gideon instructed the three hundred who were eventually chosen to go against the Midianites on how the Lord had designed the battle, our Lord gave some instructions on true discipleship.
1) A True Disciple must “Hate”: Our Lord maintained that anyone who intends to follow him must “HATE” father, mother, wife, children, brothers and sisters as well as her/his life. The original Greek word for “hate” as used in the passage is miso and this means “to love less”. Hence hatred as used here does not entail despising one’s family and one’s life but to esteem them less than God. Within the context used by our Lord, it entails developing a greater love and attention to Jesus Christ than to one’s relations and even one’s own life. The hidden truth here is that when we love God more and deeply too it becomes easier for us to love our relations, friends and other things in the right way.
2) A True Disciple must Carry Cross: Our Lord asked those who are ready to become his followers (not co-travellers) to come along with their cross. Oftentimes we are afraid of the cross because it reminds us of suffering and thus appears unpalatable; the truth, however, is that without the cross the crown will be far-fetched (James 1:12). St. Paul would tell us that the message of the cross is foolishness for those who are perishing but for those who are saved it is the power of God (1 Cor.1:18). The cross is our identity as Christian and whoever is not proud to carry the cross cannot claim to be proud of Jesus Christ who saved us through the cross. Moreso if you take a very reflective look at the cross you will discover a lot of amazing features:
It is a PLUS (+) sign so it adds to our lives.
It is LADDER that one can use to climb over any obstacle or barrier.
It is a WEAPON to fight sin and the devil. In fact, if you position the cross horizontally it appears like a gun or sword.
It points to and leads us to HEAVEN
3) A True Disciple must Build: Our Lord used the imagery of a building project and warfare engagement to describe what disciple entails. Building a house is generally cost effective and whoever wants to undertake that should be sure of the finances. Every building project entails a beginning and the finishing. There are instances where buildings were abandoned half way and very often it happens as a result of improper planning. Significantly, the process of being a disciple of Jesus Christ is like building an edifice. The beginning of this project entails making Jesus Christ the chief cornerstone (Eph.2 20-21). Each time we are involved in doing good we are building for the Lord just as evil destroys whatever we build. The building is completed when we eventually make heaven. That is why Paul writing to the Philippians (1:6) said: I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.
4) A True Disciple must Battle: The Christian life is like warfare and that was the instruction of the book of Sirach (2:1). St. Paul made it more lucid in his letter to the Ephesian (6:13-17) where he dressed the Christian with all the necessary war paraphernalia. And in 2nd Timothy (2:3-4) he called the followers of Christ soldiers who must be formidable in combat. To be combat ready as a Christian one has to make a dependable choice to fight consistently on the side of Jesus Christ. This a dependable way of being a disciple as well as doing the will of God. The irony that is connected with the Christain warfare is that God actually fights the battle (Ex.14:14). One needs only to be ready and available.
5) A True Disciple must Renounce All: Our lord ended by giving us the ponderable step towards the realisation of the preceding instructions. Simply put, he suggested that we should renounce ALL we have. This is another challenging one in a world that is too materialistic. To renounce is to give up or abandon what one has. In this regard we are called upon to renounce attachment and attraction to those things that will hinder us from carrying the cross, building well, fighting well and ultimately being true followers in accordance with God’s will.
For us to be true disciples of Jesus Christ we need to walk with him and follow him wherever he leads us. We need to pay apt attention in order to discover his will for us and operate on that Our Lord Jesus Christ gave us an insight to this when he said “seek first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness and other things will be added unto you” (Matt 6:33). We shall end with the first stanza of this traditional hymn:
When we walk with the Lord in the light of his Word
What a glory he sheds on our way!
While we do his good will, he abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
REFRAIN: Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
Have a great Sunday and a joyful week.