23rd Sunday in O.T. 09-09-07 The Demands of Discipleship according to St.

Luke Scripture Readings First Wisdom 9:13-18b Second Philemon 9-10, 12-17 Gospel Luke 14:25-33 Prepared by: Rev. James Cuddy, O.P. 1. Subject Matter

The Opening Prayer of the Mass asks the Lord for the gift of true freedom. The Gospel tells us that that freedom, paradoxically, comes from accepting and carrying the crosses in our lives. The Gospel also gives us an idea of just how important it is to weigh the costs of discipleship in our own lives. The man who carelessly says “yes” to Christ runs a greater risk of changing his course when difficult times arise. Thus right from the outset, the would-be disciple needs great prudence and wisdom, which, as the First Reading indicates, is sent from on high.

2. Exegetical Notes
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The requirements for discipleship are best read in conjunction with Luke’s first treatment of the subject in Chapter 9. Parallel texts are found in Mark 8:34ff and Matt 10:37ff. Having heard the invitation to follow Christ, this Gospel passage instructs the would-be disciple how to respond properly. Luke uses the stronger and harsher word “hate”, while Matthew more gently says “love more than”. The term denotes a disposition towards Christ and the kingdom and not an attitude towards one’s parents or other family members. “These two parables concentrate on the necessity of reflection before action. Those who want to follow Jesus on the way must weigh the cross” (JBC). The final line of the Gospel does not seem to follow as the conclusion to the two parables. “The comparison is this: the fate of those who are not able to see something through to completion. Jesus’ followers must not recoil before any sacrifice required of them to see their following of him through to the end, even if this means the sacrifice of all their possessions.” It is a practical consequence of the parables rather than their moral.

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It’s not a matter of just throwing all of your possessions away in one sweeping gesture; it is a certain detachment whereby one is ready to give whatever he must or do whatever it takes to be a true disciple. When Luke uses the word “hate” he means detachment in the strongest possible terms. The two parables bring forth the deliberate nature of discipleship. It is not something that you simply launch into without proper consideration. “The lesson of each is accessible: don’t start if you can’t finish” (Sacra Pagina). “If anyone comes to me without hating . . . his own life . . .” Luke employs the same Greek word that he uses in 12:15. That passage helps to bring out the contrast between one’s innermost being and his possessions and other accidents of his life. “Whoever does not carry his own cross . . .” Matthew’s version of this passage speaks of simply accepting the cross. The emphasis in Luke’s Gospel is on the daily demands of following Christ. It is not enough to accept the cross, but to bear it continually. This is consistent with his call to the disciple to “take up his cross daily” (9:23) and also his petition to the Father for daily bread (cf. 11:3), i.e. the food that makes possible the bearing of the cross. “Anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions . . .” The verb that Luke uses is literally rendered “say goodbye”, and is thus linked to the man who wants to follow the Lord but first wants to bid farewell to his family (cf. 9:61).

3. References to the Catechism of the Catholic Church
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1618: Christ is the center of all Christian life. The bond with him takes precedence over all other bonds, familial or social. 1816: The disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith and live on it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it: "All however must be prepared to confess Christ before men and to follow him along the way of the Cross, amidst the persecutions which the Church never lacks.” Service of and witness to the faith are necessary for salvation: "So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” 2427 Human work proceeds directly from persons created in the image of God and called to prolong the work of creation by subduing the earth, both with and for one another. Hence work is a duty: "If any one will not work, let him not eat." Work honors the Creator's gifts and the talents received from him. It can also be redemptive. By enduring the hardship of work in union with Jesus, the carpenter of Nazareth and the one crucified on Calvary, man collaborates in a certain fashion with the Son of God in his redemptive work. He shows himself to be a disciple of Christ by carrying the cross, daily, in the work he is called to accomplish. Work can be a means of sanctification and a way of animating earthly realities with the Spirit of Christ. 546 Jesus' invitation to enter his kingdom comes in the form of parables, a characteristic feature of his teaching. Through his parables he invites people to the feast of the kingdom, but he also asks for a radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give everything. . . . The parables are like mirrors for man: will he be hard soil or good earth for the word?

1435 Conversion is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right, by the admission of faults to one's brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness. Taking up one's cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance.

4. Patristic Commentary and Other Authorities
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St. Gregory: The mind is kindled, when it hears of heavenly rewards, but great rewards cannot be reached except by great labors. St. Gregory: But it may be asked, how are we bid to hate our parents and our relations in the flesh, who are commanded to love even our enemies? But if we weigh the force of the command we are able to do both, by rightly distinguishing them so as both to love those who are united to us by the bond of the flesh, and whom we acknowledge our relations, and by hating and avoiding not to know those whom we find our enemies in the way of God. St. Gregory: We rightly hate our own soul when we indulge not its carnal desires, when we subdue its appetites, and wrestle against its pleasures. St. Gregory: In two ways we bear our Lord's cross, either when by abstinence we afflict our bodies, or when through compassion of our neighbor we think all his necessities our own. St. Gregory: For every thing that we do should be preceded by anxious consideration. If then we desire to build a tower of humility, we ought first to brace ourselves against the ills of this world. St. Basil: The tower is a lofty watch-tower fitted for the guardianship of the city and the discovery of the enemy's approach. In like manner was our understanding given us to preserve the good, to guard against the evil. For the building up whereof the Lord bids us sit down and count our means if we have sufficient to finish. St. Gregory of Nyssa: For we must be ever pressing onward that we may reach the end of each difficult undertaking . . . For neither is one stone the whole fabric of the tower, nor does a single command lead to the perfection of the soul. But we must lay the foundation. St. Augustine: The ten thousand of him who is going to fight with the king who has twenty signifies the simplicity of the Christian about to contend with the subtlety of the devil. St. Augustine: The cost therefore of building the tower, and the strength of the ten thousand against the king who has twenty thousand, mean nothing else than that each one should forsake all that he has. For in the saying that a man forsakes all that he has, is contained also that he hates his father and mother, his wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes and his own wife also. For all these things are a man's own, which entangle him, and hinder him from obtaining not those particular possessions which will pass away with time, but those common blessings which will abide for ever. St. Basil: But our Lord's intention in the above-mentioned example is not indeed to afford occasion or give liberty to any one to become His disciple or not, as indeed it is lawful not to begin a foundation, or not to treat of peace, but to show the impossibility of pleasing God, amidst those things which distract the soul, and in which it is in danger of becoming an easy prey to the snares and wiles of the devil.

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The Venerable Bede: But there is a difference between renouncing all things and leaving all things. For it is the way of few perfect men to leave all things, that is, to cast behind them the cares of the world, but it is the part of all the faithful to renounce all things, that is, so to hold the things of' the world as by them not to be held in the world. Lumen Gentium: “Since Jesus, the Son of God, manifested His charity by laying down His life for us, so too no one has greater love than he who lays down his life for Christ and His brothers . . . . [A]ll must be prepared to confess Christ before men. They must be prepared to make this profession of faith even in the midst of persecutions, which will never be lacking to the Church, in following the way of the cross” (§ 42).

5. Examples from the Saints and Other Exemplars

The story of St. Ignatius’ sickbed conversion illustrates many of the elements of today’s Gospel. He carefully considered the radical decision of discipleship and weighed such a choice: “While reading the life of Christ our Lord or lives of the saints, he would reflect and reason with himself: ‘What if I should do what Saint Francis or Saint Dominic did?’” Ultimately, he found that only following Christ could bring him true happiness: “When Ignatius reflected on worldly thoughts, he felt intense pleasure; but when he gave them up our of weariness, he felt dry and depressed. Yet when he thought of living the rigorous sort of life he knew the saints had lived, he not only experienced pleasure when he actually thought about it, but even after he dismissed these thoughts, he still experienced great joy” (quotations drawn from the second lesson of the Office of Readings in the breviary’s Proper of Saints). The life of the young St. Francis of Assisi illustrates the call to place nothing else above the call of the Gospel. “[Francis’ father] was incensed beyond measure at his son's conduct, and Francis, to avert his wrath, hid himself in a cave near St. Damian's for a whole month. When he emerged from this place of concealment and returned to the town, emaciated with hunger and squalid with dirt, Francis was followed by a hooting rabble, pelted with mud and stones, and otherwise mocked as a madman. Finally, he was dragged home by his father, beaten, bound, and locked in a dark closet” (taken from the “St. Francis of Assisi entry in The Catholic Encyclopedia).

6. Quotations from Pope Benedict XVI

Love is . . . a journey, an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God: “Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it,” as Jesus says throughout the Gospels. In these words, Jesus portrays his own path, which leads through the Cross to the Resurrection: the path of the grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies, and in this way bears much fruit. Starting from the depths of his own sacrifice and of the love that reaches fulfillment therein, he also portrays in these words the essence of love and indeed of human life itself. If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. This is not a narrow moralism that views life principally from the negative side, not is it a kind of masochism for those who do not like themselves. We also do not track down

the real meaning of Jesus’ words if we understand them the other way around, as an exalted moralism for heroic souls who are determined to be martyrs . . . From this goal the age-old wisdom of humans acquires its meaning – that only they who lose themselves find themselves, and only they that give life receive life.

For the perfection of life, it is necessary to imitate Christ, not only in terms of the meekness and patience exhibited in his life, but also in terms of his death.

7. Other Considerations

The Second Reading, from the Letter to Philemon, can serve to illustrate an important aspect of the Lord’s call to discipleship. Paul intercedes for this runaway slave and serves as his advocate before his master. And while he would have been within his rights to lord his authority over Philemon (e.g. “you must heed my word and receive Onesimus back”), he rather makes his appeal on the basis of the great love of Christ that trickles down and is shared by his disciples. The true friend of our Lord, if he is to persevere in following Christ, has his discipleship rooted in love.

Recommended Resources Friends of Henry Ashworth, translators and editors, Christ Our Light: Readings on Gospel Themes. Ambler, PA: Exordium Books, 1985. Raymond Brown, SS, Joseph Fitzmeyer, SJ, and Roland Murphy, O. Carm., The Jerome Biblical Commentary. Published in two Volumes. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1968. Peter John Cameron, OP, editor, Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI. Yonkers: Magnificat/Ignatius Press, 2006. Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke. Volume Three in the Sacra Pagina Series. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1991.

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