Wisdom 9:13-18, Philemon 9-10,12-17, Luke 14:25-33
The Journey with Jesus is not without a Cost
I once encountered a distressing scene last three years when I went to visit someone in a hospital. I have known this family for a long time. It happened that the man I visited was almost giving up life.
Though today, God granted him the mercy to live till now. His life is one of those miraculous events that truly convinced me that God still hears prayers even when every hope is lost.
This man, his wife and his family were very well known as a peaceful family. Every person who comes in contact with his family will always tell how the man has been living peacefully with his wife. Not just leaving peacefully, both of them behave like twins, what many people call five and six. You can never see the man on any occasion or liturgical celebrations without the wife.
Sometimes, he carries the wife with his hands. They have this great bond that people admire. Last three years, the man developed serious health complications. It was a case that many people, even the doctor, had already given up.
So, on this great day, I visited the hospital, to see the man almost half dead. The doctors and the nurses were running around seeking a way to resuscitate him. It seemed like a waste of time.
It was then I entered the hospital and saw the family and medical professionals in a quagmire. Immediately the wife saw me, she ran to me and held my soutane and was shouting “Fr. he is gone, My husband is gone” She was crying profusely and was shouting:
“Fr. you know I cannot live without my husband. If he dies, I will follow him, I will sacrifice my life and everything and join him, He is all I have. He is my everything, fr please do something, I cannot love anyone more than I love my husband. Am ready to sell everything we have to make sure that he lives, fr please pray”.
Oh my God, this touched me. Graciously that was on the feast of the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I told the woman to stop shouting and crying, but rather to beseech the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to grant the husband the grace to live again as a birthday gift. The rest became a story. Up till now, He is still living.
My major emphasis is not majorly on what happened after but on what the wife was saying. Because she loves her husband so much and because of how close they are and have been together.
She was ready to accept death for the sake of her husband. Also, She was ready to go with him. She was ready to give up and sell everything, to make sure her husband lives. Let me repeat what she said here:
“Fr. you know I cannot live without my husband. If he dies, I will follow him, I will sacrifice my life and everything and join him, He is all I have. He is my everything, fr please do something, I cannot love anyone more than I love my husband. Am ready to sell everything we have to make sure that he lives, fr please pray.
When I remembered this, I said this is exactly what the readings of today are teaching us. If we are ready to be a disciple of Jesus, we must also be ready to give up everything. We must be ready to risk even the love of people.
The journey with Jesus is not without a cost. The journey may be full of grace but the journey may also be full of challenges. We must be ready to accept the cross and the glory.
The Journey with Jesus
To understand the gospel of today, we have to read the preceding verses. The gospel of today is still a further continuation of the gospel of last Sunday, when Jesus tells the Pharisees who invited him for dinner, not only to invite the people he knows but also the poor, the crippled, the sick, the homeless, etc.
Jesus says to him that by doing that, He will be blessed. It was then that one of those at the table with him heard this, said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.
Then Jesus proceeded to tell them the parable of the great banquet, using the great banquet to illustrate how the kingdom of God would be.
Jesus sees the kingdom of God as a great banquet in which many were invited to be part of the kingdom, but they gave irrelevant excuses, while some did not heed the advice.
So, after the parable of the banquet, the crowd joined Jesus. They now wanted to be part of the kingdom. By following Jesus, the crowd in a way try to show their eagerness to be part of the kingdom feast at this time.
Invariably, they think that everything about the Kingdom of God is only about feasting and Jesus is the one to make this happen, so they follow Jesus to show their eagerness to be part of this great feast.
So, while they are following Jesus up and down, Jesus then reminds them that any man who wants to come to him without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, and his own life too, cannot be His disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and come after him cannot be his disciple.
So, Jesus uses the opportunity to remind them that the journey with him is not without a cost.
It is not only about feasting, glory, and enjoyment. The journey with Jesus is not always rosy. It involves hatred, it involves the willingness to give up things that are so precious to us. Also, it is a journey that is also accompanied by challenges and suffering.
Some biblical scholars also explain that by this time even, Jesus is already on His way to Jerusalem, so the crowd may think the Messiah is now on the way to take charge of the Kingdom.
So, Jesus makes it clearer to them that this journey is not only about accepting the invitation to follow him but it has its demands.
Therefore, like the woman in my story, to walk with Jesus is not without a cost.
To decide to follow Jesus is also a decision to give up anything that may stand against this decision. It is a decision to accept whatever may come to us in our journey with the lord. So, we must be willing also to carry our crosses along the journey of our salvation.
The reason We have to Accept The Cross.
There is a reason we must accept whatever comes to us on our way to salvation.
In the first reading, the author says emphatically that no man indeed can know the intentions of God, and no one can determine His will. God knows the reason for everything. You may have prayed and fasted and yet you encounter the same disappointments.
You may have tried your way to be very close to God yet it seems there are more problems than solutions. What we have to understand, first of all, is that the journey with Jesus is not always rosy. The problems and challenges could be part of the journey. No one knows what God is doing for you.
Sometimes, do not cry when things do not go the way you want. God may be preparing something better. The author of the first reading says that the reasoning of mortals is unsure. It is hard enough for us to work out what is on earth. We can only be saved by Wisdom.
Therefore, however, we try to fathom whatever we pass through, and however, we think it, only Jesus can save us. He is the wisdom of God. By this, we mean being close to Him despite the cost.
Suffering for the Sake of Gospel.
In Matthew 5:11-12, Jesus says “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for, in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you”.
Here, Jesus reiterates that there must surely be insults, persecutions and false accusations against us when we stand for the truth. There will be people who will just hate and envy you for no reason because of what you do.
There could be people who will fight tooth and nail to pull you down and nail you to the cross because of your gifts and talents.
So, you will encounter people who will not always agree with you because of your love for Jesus. Jesus says that these shall happen. Hence, despite the tribulations of the moment, there is a reward waiting for us at last.
We must truly suffer for what we believe.
This is what happens in the second reading. In the second reading, Saint Paul writes the letter from the prison to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus.
Onesimus is a servant of Philemon, the apostle Paul’s friend. Onesimus robbed his master Philemon and fled to Rome. So, on behalf of Onesimus, Paul, writes the letter to Onesimus’s master, Philemon.
The apostle pleaded with Philemon to accept Onesimus back, not as a slave but as a believer and a brother in Christ.
The point we want to emphasize here is that Paul was writing from prison. He says in the letter that he is in chains. We expect Paul to be angry with God for allowing him to suffer in the prison.
We expect Paul to denounce His faith since He has been working miracles but this time He could not save himself anymore. It now seems as if God has abandoned Him. We expect Paul to lose his faith and stop praying even, yet Paul was still talking about Jesus.
He even calls himself a prisoner of Christ.
Therefore, He teaches us to stand firm even amid tribulations. Paul teaches us that one day we have to suffer for our love of Jesus. The devil will try everything possible to destroy us. Hence, Paul teaches us to stand firm and still stay close to Jesus.
The Journey to Be a True Disciple of Jesus.
From there, we have to discover that the journey to be a true disciple of Jesus is not only a journey of favours, blessings, testimonies, upliftment etc.
It is also a journey of detachment, willingness to carry our crosses and ability to carry our crosses. If Jesus says that we must carry our crosses and follow Him, it also means that we have to appreciate our daily crosses. No one knows the reason they are there. Only God knows the reasons.
Therefore, we must not give up our faith when things do not go the way we prayed and expected. Rather, we have to stay strong in faith. Therefore, the Journey to be a disciple of Jesus involves these:
1. The Journey Involves Hatred.
In the gospel, Jesus tells the crowd “If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple”. It then means that the Journey with Jesus also involves hatred.
To be a disciple of Jesus, we must hate.
Hatred means intense dislike for something. When Jesus says that we must hate our father, mother etc, Jesus did not tell us to run away from our families or family responsibilities but Jesus means that the love for following Him must precede.
To understand this difficult statement made by Jesus, we must read the following verses. In the verses that follow, Jesus relates a metaphor about a person who builds a tower without first counting the cost.
Jesus asks “Which of you here, intending to build a tower, would not first sit down and work out the cost to see if he had enough to complete it?
Otherwise, if he laid the foundation and then found himself unable to finish the work, the onlookers would all start making fun of him and saying, “Here is a man who started to build and was unable to finish”
So when the man cannot finish what he set out to do. He leaves the house unfinished because he cannot pay what is required.
Jesus’ illustration helps explain His difficult statement about hating our mother and father.
So, what Jesus is saying is that there is a cost to following Him, we must count the cost first and then make the firm decision to follow him. Unlike the crowds who just woke up and decides to follow him, Jesus means that to follow him must come from a willful decision and determination.
Therefore, the journey with Jesus is not without a cost, we must be willing to give up everything for Jesus. The hatred that Jesus talks about here means that the journey with Him must involve total commitment and faithfulness.
Therefore, even if our parents try to stop us, we must choose to follow Jesus. Even if they choose not to follow the Lord, we must follow Jesus.
Even when we are faced with loyalty to family versus loyalty to Jesus, we must choose loyalty to Jesus.
Therefore, despite their persecutions to make us lose our faith, we must prioritize our relationship with Jesus over our relationship with anybody, despite the tie. Even if the person is your friend or blood tie, loyalty to Jesus must come first.
2. We must Hate Ourselves.
No one wills hate for himself or herself and no one can hate himself. Therefore, when Jesus says we must hate ourselves, He is revealing more to us the cost of following Him.
In Galatians 2:20, Paul says “have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”.
In Galatians 5:24, St Paul reaffirms that those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. In essence, to die to ourselves means to crucify our passions, bodily desires and earthly quests for the sake of Jesus.
Hence, in our journey with the Lord, the love of Jesus must come first and not our earthly and bodily desires and passion.
3. Willingness to carry The Cross.
Jesus says today, “Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple”. Therefore, to be a disciple of Jesus, we must be willing to carry our cross.
To carry our cross means to put our trust totally in God, especially amid the storms, challenges and battles of life. It means that although we may be in an extremely difficult, challenging or painful situation, we shall always trust God even in our suffering.
Therefore, the call to carry your cross is a call of absolute surrender. To be a disciple of Jesus could be easy when life runs smoothly and when things go the way we want but our true commitment to Him is revealed in the time of trials.
Therefore, the journey with Jesus is not without a cost. It demands sacrifice, detachment, and willingness to remain close to the Lord.
4. We have to give up our Possession.
Jesus also talked about the king marching to war against another king. He asks if the king would not first sit down and consider whether with ten thousand men he could stand up to the others who advanced against him with twenty thousand.
If not, then while the other king was still a long way off, he would send envoys to sue for peace” . He says that in the same way, none of us can be his disciple unless he gives up all his possessions”.’
The Greek word, used here is apotasso, which means “give up.” it also means “to set apart,” “to separate from, say goodbye, willingly give up etc. Therefore, the journey with Jesus is not without a cost. We must separate ourselves from our desires, family members, and possessions if we truly want to be His disciples.
Jesus does not mean that we must become poor. Jesus is not commanding us to sell our possessions and become homeless. Instead, Jesus is telling us to renounce or give up everything that will take us away from Him.
1. By being a prisoner for the sake of Jesus Christ. The Apostle teaches us how to live as Christians. Saint Paul considered himself the prisoner of Christ. Outwardly he was confined in a physical prison, but actually, he was imprisoned in Christ; as such a prisoner in Christ.
Therefore, to be able to carry our cross and accept our daily challenges we must be imprisoned in Christ and take Christ as our prison. We have to love Him with all our hearts.
To imprison ourselves in Him, means we have to attach ourselves to Him and for Him. We have to attach ourselves to Him even when things do not go the way we want.
Therefore, when we are truly in Jesus, we see everything as good. The more we love the Lord, the more He becomes our prison.
In Romans 8:28, Saint Paul says that everything works for good for those who love God. Let us imprison ourselves in the love of Jesus Christ. This is not when we only go to church but remain how we are. This is when we truly and intimately love Jesus with all our hearts. In essence, we cannot journey with Jesus without loving Him sincerely.
2. There are times when we think that challenges and problems indicate that we are not blessed. Sometimes we feel God blesses others with material possessions but overlooks us, never.
When we truly love God, we will discover that both the good and the bad experiences have a mission they come to achieve. In the first reading, the book says that no one knows God’s intentions.
Therefore, No one knows the reason, you were disappointed. No one knows the reason things are not happening the way you want them. No one knows the reason you encountered that setback.Only God knows. Despite whatever and however it comes, always stay strong in faith.
3. The Journey with Jesus is not without a cost. It is not only a journey with glory, success, favour, joy, and testimonies. We also have challenges and crosses. The journey can be filled with pains, insults, persecutions, misunderstandings and trials. But we have to know that many are the affliction of the righteous, but the Lord delivers them out of them all (Psalm 34:19).
4. Therefore, the journey with Jesus or the decision to be a disciple of Jesus can cost you your time, money, position, pride, possessions, friends and bodily desires and passion. There may be a time you want to rest and enjoy yourself but your spirit will demand that you use the hour for the lord.
There may be a time you want to use the money to purchase something very important to you but the Spirit of God wants you to use it to save a life. Also, there may be a time you may want to show revenge but the spirit of God wants you to forgive.
We can see that this journey is not an easy one. Can we be willing to accept the injunction of the spirit or that of the flesh? In every situation, the will of God and what God wants from us must surely supersede that of ours.
5. Therefore, Jesus wants us to plan and count the cost before we truly decide to be His true disciples. Can we be able to accept the cost? Can we do it? Also, Can we be able to crucify our sinful desires for the sake of the love we have for Jesus?
Also, can we forgo our daily and busy schedule, night parties and enjoyment to spend time with Jesus? Can Jesus truly be the first or are we yet to make the true decision?
Remember what the woman in my intro says. She says “Fr. you know I cannot live without my husband. If he dies, I will follow him, I will sacrifice my life and everything and join him, He is all I have. He is my everything, fr please do something, I cannot love anyone more than I love my husband. Am ready to sell everything we have to make sure that he lives, fr please pray” Can we also say this of Jesus? If truly we love Jesus, what prevents us?
Let us seek Him with all our hearts. He will never forsake us. God bless You.