Now large crowds were travelling with him;
and he turned and said to them, 'Whoever comes to me and does not hate father
and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself,
cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be
my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit
down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?
Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see
it will begin to ridicule him, saying, "This fellow began to build and was
not able to finish." Or what king, going out to wage war against another
king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand
to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot,
then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the
terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not
give up all your possessions.
In the preceding parable (14:16-24),Jesus
tells us of a man who invited many friends to a great supper, but one and all
found some excuse for not coming. The host then sent for the poor, the crippled,
the blind and the lame. The reference is to the banquet in the kingdom of God.
The leaders of the Chosen People refused to come. The ordinary sinners,
outcasts according to the Pharisees, and the Gentiles, would flock to the
kingdom in their place. Jesus now warms that certain conditions must be
fulfilled before they can really enter the kingdom.
Jesus told them whoever comes to me must be
ready to sacrifice even what is nearest and dearest to him, if it comes between
him and Christ.
Turning his back on father, mother and
relatives, does not mean deserting or denying them. Jesus’ very self shows
this: one cannot desert oneself. What it means is that if one’s relatives or
one’s own evil inclinations prevent one from following Christ, one must oppose them
and do what is right.
Accepting Christianity at any time or
place, but especially in Palestine at the beginning, meant of necessity making
a great sacrifice. The Jews persecuted and cast out of the family any member
who became a Christian, unless the whole family became Christian. The Gentile
converts in the early Church also suffered much from their families and
neighbours. Hence Christ forewarns prospective followers of the difficulties
they were to encounter.
The two parables, one about the building of
a tower and another about the king going to war, help to emphasize the
necessity of considering carefully before deciding to follow Christ. Failures
would bring no credit to themselves or to Christ. Rather they would make a
mockery of themselves and doubly endanger their possibility of attaining
Jesus shows the parables as being intended
to bring out the need for careful consideration before following him. He had to
be followed sincerely and truly, or not at all. At the time there were many among
the Jews who thought that he would be a political king, who would set free from
the hated rule of pagan Rome. These were anxious to join him. But he gradually
made it clear to them that his kingdom was not of this world. They then lost
interest in him.
But Jesus reminded them to renounce all and
to understand in the sense that one’s possessions must not impede one from
following him sincerely. There are religious men and women who exclude by vow
all right to possessions, but they are relatively few. The vast majority of
Christians are not asked or expected to give up their property, even in the
limited legal sense of the vow of poverty, unless their possessions prevent
them from living the Christian life.
The essential condition for true
discipleship, demanded by Christ, was, and still is, total dedication, total
commitment of oneself to him. There can be no such person as a half-Christian.
“He that is not with me is against me,” he said on another occasion. We cannot
be for Christ on Sunday and against him for the other six days of the week. To
be his true disciples, his true follower, we must live our Christian life every
day and all day. Amen.