This Sunday we celebrate the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time it is a time for new beginnings with the youngsters going back to school or college and their parents breathing a big sigh of relief that the long holidays are now at an end. Many of us have the feeling that time is passing by so very quickly. You know just how quickly life is going by when your nephew at 24 years of age is complaining about his life just running past him such is the life of so many both Young and Old time is just passing by all of us. In our Gospel for this Sunday Luke tells us that Jesus is not addressing those he called to follow him, his disciples. Instead, he is speaking to those who might be thinking about following him. Earlier when someone had such a notion he said to Jesus, “I will be your follower wherever you go” (9:57). Jesus responded to, what sounds like, a person caught up in the enthusiasm of the moment, with a stark reminder, “the foxes have lairs, the birds of the sky have nests but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (9:58).
This is a sobering reminder to all of us about what it will mean to follow the one who has “nowhere to lay his head.” The cost of discipleship might mean detachment from one’s previous world and way of living. Jesus is asking total loyalty to him and many have shown that loyalty by giving their lives in defense of the faith. Jesus used examples from his world; a farmer’s lookout tower, a king and his army marching into battle. We would use different examples for life’s challenges – but we get the point.
Have we considered what Christ’s invitation to follow him involves? Are we realistic about the personal costs investing our whole selves will require? Are we willing to use our strength and resources to fulfill the promises we have made in faith? Even more to the point: have we heard his most direct challenge, “Whoever does not carry his/her own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” How costly is that! To be willing to carry a cross, an instrument of sacrifice and death; willing to accept pain and loss of our own lives to respond to Jesus’ invitation to discipleship.
Who among us hasn’t stumbled, or even failed in our calling as disciples? We have chosen comfort over sacrifice. We have been still, when we should have spoken up. We prefer diversions, rather than learning more about our faith. We have existed on the edge of our church community, rather than given time and resources to help build it up. Have we compromised on the call to follow Christ and the sacrifices that call requires? At some point on many things faith and otherwise we have compromised. That’s why we begin Mass with the penitential rite, in which we acknowledge our failings. We can say with Peter, “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful person.” But the emphasis isn’t on our sin; it’s on the mercy of God, as we pray, “Lord have mercy.” We struggle to do the best we can, and when we don’t, instead of pulling back in shame, we come together as a community that surrenders in trust to God’s mercy Especially during this Year of Mercy. Following Christ is a life changing journey. We have a limited time in which to complete this journey. Therefore, we must travel a certain distance each day. This does not mean that we must spend every day in prayer and meditation.
There are other tasks to be done, but we must Christianize these other tasks. Even the members of religious orders who “leave the world,” that is, who are set free from the family and financial cares of this world by their vows of chastity and poverty, have to busy themselves with other cares like teaching, nursing, tilling the soil perhaps, house-keeping, writing and many such activities. They cannot and do not spend all their day and every day in prayer and meditation. Nor does Christ demand this of them. Jesus tells us that Discipleship is costly and not something we can take casually. It’s not easy to follow Christ. But we are not on our own. When we fail, Christ is by our side ready to respond to our plea, “Lord have mercy.”Nor are we on our own as we attempt to make big sacrifices in Jesus’ name. Rather, Jesus has given us with the Holy Spirit who is ever ready to guide us more and more into a fuller response to the invitation each of us has heard through our baptism, “Come follow me.” Let us not be afraid to follow where Jesus calls us to be.