On one occasion while in the seminary, I was traveling from Owerri southeast Nigeria to visit one of my sisters in Abuja, northcentral Nigeria. Arriving at the bus terminal, I met a lady with two young boys clad in their school uniforms. The lady coming to me asked if I was traveling on the bus that was about to depart, and I answered in affirmation. Then she said, “can I ask for a favor?” I nodded, and she asked if I could kindly keep an eye on the two boys (her kids) as they were traveling back to school for the first time by themselves and she felt like handing them over to someone, and she thought I could help.
Fast forwarding, I accepted the lady’s request, and she was overjoyed when I introduced myself as a catholic seminarian, and the kids were returning to Loyola College, a catholic school in Abuja. One thing that touched me and doubled as the reason for this story was her final words to her kids before kissing them goodbye. She said to them, “follow him (that is me) and do whatever he tells you throughout the journey.” Like a typical Nigerian mother, she repeated the instruction three times while pulling the lower part of her ears with both hands for emphasis.
Reflecting on that event in the context of the Gospel Reading today (Luke 14:25-33), it strikes me that the greats crowds were merely traveling with Jesus and not committing to becoming followers of the Lord. For the latter reason, our Lord turns to them and says, “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.”
Co-travellers Vs. Disciples
Each time we travel, we meet other people traveling on the same route as us. Often, the only relationship we have with them is that of being on the same bus, car, ship, airline, etc. At the end of that journey, we may not meet most of them again. On the contrary, when we have family, friends, or colleagues with us, we tend to share a relationship of support and dependence during the duration of the journey.
In the opening story of this reflection, one would observe that the two young students had many co-travelers in the bus, but through the counsel of their mom, they could look up to me and follow my instructions throughout the journey. On the way to Jerusalem, our Lord had lots of co-travelers or crowds, but he insists on making it clear that there is something more precious than being a co-traveler.
Discipleship is all about Detachment and Commitment to the Lord
It is most regrettable that some Christians are mere co-travelers instead of committed disciples. Our Lord made it clear that anyone who wants to follow him must go through a process which involves detachment from self and close relations (1 Cor. 7:29-31), carrying one’s cross, building up oneself (Jude 1:20), and being battle-ready (Eph. 6:11-17).
When our Lord says, one should hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters and one’s own life he meant that we should love them less compared to our love for God which should be more. Our Lord’s message is very appropriate for us in our day and age, where most of us prefer the things of the world to heavenly values. St. James would advise us that friendship with the world is enmity with God (James 4:4).
Carrying our cross every day to follow the Lord calls for commitment and consistency in our Christian life. Christianity is not just a religion; it is a way of life and living the Christian life without the cross is like making a caricature of the redemptive event of the Lord at Calvary. The cross is not a conclusion of our life but the gateway to our glorious crown in heaven. St. Paul tells us that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but for those who are being saved, it is the power of God (1 Cor. 1:18).
As we march into a new week, let us remember that it is not enough to travel with the Lord amid the vast crowd. He wants us to identify ourselves as committed disciples by our avowed detachment, the conscientious building of our faith in love and the courage to fight the battle with the confidence that He who started a good work in us will bring it to completion (Phil. 1:6). God bless you!