When I was in Grade 6, I joined the Boys’ Scouts in our school at the University of San Carlos. One of the activities organized back then was a camporee in Camp Marina. Among the nightly activities we had was a camp fire. We had songs and skits during the camp fire. One of the songs we were taught as a group of scouts to experience camaraderie was “I have decided to follow Jesus.” There were many other songs that were taught to us. But this one I remembered so well. But back then, boys as we were, the song was a mere recreational song.
Yet this song has a very serious theme. It’s a song on making a definite choice. It is actually a profession of faith. It has also a dramatic story behind it.
The song originated from India; in a place named “Assam.” In the 18th century, this region was divided by hundreds of tribes. Most of them were “head hunters.” A man’s strength and ability was assessed by the number of heads he had collected!
Now missionaries from Wales and England arrived in this aggressive and hostile people. Naturally they found it difficult to evangelize these tribes. In fact, many of the missionaries were among the heads collected by the head hunters.
But one missionary succeeded in bring a man, his wife and two kids to Christ. He and family was baptized. Moreover, this man’s faith proved to be so contagious that many of his neighbors and villagers began to accept Christianity.
The village chief got so angry upon hearing this. He summoned the man before the entire village community. He demanded that he renounce his faith in public or face execution. But the man replied: “I have decided to follow Jesus! No more turning back.
Enraged by his refusal, the chief had his two children executed by archers. But still the man said: “Though no one joins me, still I will follow. No turning back..” Now with fury, the chief ordered his wife to be arrowed down. Now he asked the man for the last time: “I will give you one more opportunity to deny your faith and live.”
Yet the man said: “The world can be behind me, but the cross is still before me. No more turning back.” Thus he was arrowed down like the rest of his family.
But with their death, a miracle took place. This chief who had ordered their killing was moved by the faith of the man. He wondered why a man with his entire family would be willing to dies for a man who had lived more than a thousand years ago. “There must be something supernatural about Him.” Having made the decision, he went to the missionaries and declared: “I too want to belong to Jesus Christ.!”
Today’s Gospel taken from Lk 14:25-33 speaks about the radicality of following Jesus. “If anyone comes to me,” Jesus says “without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers and sisters cannot be my disciple.” Using hyperbolic or exaggerated language, Jesus wanted to emphasize the great detachment needed to be His disciple.
Pope Francis said: “Faith is not something decorative or for show. To have faith means to put Christ truly at the center of our lives.
There are 3 D’s we can learn from the Gospel:
We make a clear choice for Christ. We need to sit down and calculate the cost like building a tower or a house. We need to sit down and decide like a king at war. We need to make up our mind!
Pope Francis, in speaking to the youth during the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil said: “Faith is a Copernican revolution, an operation that shifts concerns and priorities so that they revolve around Jesus and not the individual or false idols.”
3. Dying to Self
Furthermore, the Pope said: “possessions, money and power can give a momentary illusion of being happy. But they end up possession us, making us want more. We are never satisfied. Instead with Christ as the center of your life, you will never be disappointed.”