To Decide is To Renounce
04 September 2022, 23rd Sunday in the Ordinary Time
Lk 14: 25-33
There is a popular charismatic song entitled I Have Decided to Follow Jesus and the lyrics goes like this, “I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus, No turning back, no turning back”. What made us decide to follow the Lord?
In the Gospel, Jesus never promises a walk in the park for those who would decide to follow Him. He never sugarcoats discipleship. He never preaches prosperity Gospel. He never promises a problem free Christian life. Instead, Jesus said that to be His followers, it implies walking through the way of the cross. Because we are free to decide, it does not mean it is cheap. In fact, it is costly. To follow Jesus is a risk!
Before one decides a particular vocation or profession, the whole world is before us. Single men and women can enjoy TGIF/TGIS parties, unlimited travels both domestic and abroad, more opportunities attached to having high salaries. And when you ask them, “When are you going to settle down?”, they would say, “Settle down, I am enjoying my life!”
But others, when they realize that when they get married, their lives become limited and even their physique would be affected, they don’t. In priesthood and consecrated life, only a few dares to bare, primarily because they are afraid not to have money, honey and property. Indeed, we don’t have a crisis of vocation but a crisis of faith. Among the Generation Z, it is noticeable that they jump from one job to another. To serve a company, an institution and even to enter into a relationship, is not for a lifetime commitment but to get more perks from short-term contracts. Are conviction and commitment a passe?
What is Jesus teaching us today? Jesus tells us that in every decision is a renunciation. When we renounce our being obsessed with our identity, with prosperity and with mediocrity, it is only then that God can possess us. Jesus never forces the call. He intends that discipleship must be a conscious, free and wholehearted response to be part of His destiny and mission. How can we develop a conscious, free and response to Jesus’ call?
First, pray. In the 1st Reading, from the book of Wisdom, the Word of God counsels the readers who seek wisdom to seek God and be willing to accept the sending of the Holy Spirit. The President of the Catholic University of America, Engr Peter Kilpatrick, in his speech for the opening of the new academic year said, “The Spirit will not prey upon your insecurities or make false and overblown promises. Nor will the Spirit shrink your soul to fit worldly purposes, instead, the Spirit of the Lord will show you your authentic worth and guide you toward true happiness.” Prayer makes us see who we are as God sees us. By this, we can heed to Jesus’ call even if following Him is challenging.
Second, ponder. In the Gospel, the Lord Jesus said that for those who want to follow Him entails a lot of risk: persecution, rejection but in the end consolation. By this, we need to “sit down, estimate the cost and see whether one has enough to complete it”. These actions invite us to reflect, to introspect, to see our capacities and even our limitations. If we claim these capacities as coming from God, use them well to advance His reign. If we are struggling with particular human limitations/weakness, and we recognize that God is even calling us and is faithfully accompanying us, let these weaknesses be an opening for God’s grace to enter through. Allow God to purify us our intentions and clarify our motivations. God desires our happiness. By fusing our desires to His, God will fulfill every good thing that He has started in you and in me, as St Paul said.
Third, persevere. In the 2nd Reading, St Paul appeals to Philemon for Onesimus. There seems to be a problem between Philemon, the master and his slave Onesimus. Some scholars interpret that Onesimus ran away from Philemon because Onesimus stole something from his master. There was a loss of trust. But Paul sees Onesimus more than a person who committed a mistake but a person who needed accompaniment. Sometimes, God allows people to hurt us in order to test us and to allow the best, not the beast, to come out from us. Yes, others can be crosses that we carry. But by these crosses we are sanctified and saved. This process of becoming gentle, kind, forgiving, understanding and patient needs a lot of perseverance on our part.
We have decided to follow Jesus. This decision that implies renunciation has to conscious, free and wholehearted day by day. And so, day by day, as we carry the cross and walk the way of the cross, we commit to pray, to ponder and to persevere. Amen!
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