The Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Matthew 8:19-22; Luke 9:57-62

Radical Discipleship

Today’s passage brings a radical call for discipleship that leaves most of us sitting still.  In these verses, Jesus allows no doubt about our priorities, demanding that he and the kingdom of God take first place.  We have already seen this in his call to Peter and Andrew, James and John, and Matthew, in which the he merely said, “Follow me,” and they did, even leaving family behind (Matthew 4:18-22; 9:9).  We must understand that when Jesus calls, he expects an immediate answer and not some tepid response that, more than anything else, is a measure of our commitment and love (the lack of, that is) towards him.

But there is a sense in which we must place this passage in context with the whole Bible.  We have seen on another occasion that our Lord condemned the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and scribes by allowing a man to not care for his aging parents on account of an alleged “loophole” in the law, thus abusing the law they supposedly honored (Matthew 15:1-9).  And Paul tells us that “if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).  So how do we make sense of this?

We must be careful that we do not water down our Lord’s words.  In every instance, Jesus is telling people that discipleship has costs.  Theologian and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, said, “When Jesus calls a man, he bids him come and die” (Cost of Discipleship).  Of course, we know that dying to self is the only way to live (Luke 9:23-24).  In the first instance, Jesus warns us that following him may leave us with few amenities; in the second, that serving the kingdom may require leaving beloved family members behind (in another place, we are warned that following Jesus may even sever family ties, Luke 12:49-53); in the third, that the kingdom requires urgent response.  We are called in no uncertain terms to love God above everything and everyone else.  Are we prepared to sell everything, give to the poor, and follow him, if he were to require that of us?  Are we willing to kiss our children and grandchildren goodbye if God were to call them to the mission field, even to a hostile place?  Is the kingdom foremost in our hearts and minds or do we secretly long for what the world has to offer with all of its precious trinkets – houses, cars, entertainment, retirement, or financial security?  Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).  The kingdom calls us to greater living than we have allowed ourselves; let us not by satisfied with the dust and ashes of this life.

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