Cycle [C] 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Wis. 9:13-18; Phlm. 9b-10, 12-17; Lk. 14:25-33

In today’s Gospel Jesus presented two parables. He compared the Christian life to a building project and to warfare. In the first parable, Jesus related that before someone builds a tower, he sits down and calculates the cost. If he does not have enough wealth to finish the tower, in all wisdom, he does not begin the project. Otherwise, the project will come to an end before it is completed and everyone will laugh at the builder. 

In the second parable, Jesus said that a king going to war against forces that are far more superior than his, must carefully calculate the cost. He must carefully consider his chances of winning the battle. If he does not have any chance or the risk is too high, he must surrender unconditionally. So it is with Christian discipleship. A disciple cannot serve two masters. He must choose to either

commit himself or to withdraw himself. He cannot stand halfway between both sides. He has to decide and show his commitment.

There is a documentary on the rigorous training one must overcome in order become a Navy Seal. There were four teams of trainees that were to navigate their inflatable raft over treacherous, high seas in a race to the beach. The team that came in first was congratulated by their training officer. The number two team was simply asked, “What does that make you?” Their captain responded, “First Looser, Sir.”

But Jesus declares such are not the motives of a true disciple. Greatness in the Kingdom of God is seen in humility, not in being number one. Humility is the sign of a true disciple, and those individuals who want to travel the Pathway of Discipleship walk in the spirit of servant hood and childlikeness with their Lord.

A true disciple must forsake all to follow Jesus. He must love Jesus above all others.  Jesus said that His disciples must "hate father and mother, spouse and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself.” True discipleship is to commit onself to a life of self-renunciation. It is to embrace suffering, persecution, obedience, servitude and humility, all for the love of Christ. 

The person and work of Jesus cannot remain as a mere mental construct, separate from the rest of life. The gospel changes us. It gives us new identities, goals, and pursuits. 

Biblical history is full of stories of discipleship. An example of effective discipleship that stems from an overflowing of the Holy Spirit is the story of Philip and the Ethiopian.  Acts  talks about it. The Spirit told Philip to join an Ethiopian Eunuch in a chariot who was reading the prophet of Isaiah. The Ethiopian had no clue what the passage meant, so he asked Philip to explain it to him. 

When Philip ran up to it, he heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, ‘Do you understand what you’re reading?’ 

‘How can I,’ he said, ‘unless someone guides me?’ So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. (Is 53:7-8)

Because Philip had studied the scriptures and knew Jesus, he was able to ask the man if he understood what he was reading. He was able to show how the passage of scripture prophesied about Jesus. From there, Philip told the Ethiopians all about the good news of the gospel. 

Because Philip began with the word of God, he was able to lead this man to Christ, The story of Philip and the Ethiopian is a great story about the beginning of the discipleship process.

 Moses and Joshua’s story has one of the most influential discipleship models from the Old Testament. Moses was the man who led the Israelites out of Egypt and led them through the wilderness. Joshua was the man who led them into the promised land. 

Moses was a great leader but still had his struggles. He disobeyed God along the way. Because of his disobedience and the Israelites’ rebellion, God did not allow them to enter the promised land. Instead, Moses was to raise up Joshua to lead the next generation of Israelites according to God’s law and plans. 

Long time ago, there was a Buddhist teacher who was wise and compassionate. He had many bright students, he taught them meditation and other practices. They held him in high respect. But there was a young disciple who would often steal from his brother monks.

Monks complained about him to their teacher. The master said, "Give him some time, he will learn. I'll talk to him". The Master called the young disciple and said< “Only right practice will give you what you crave for, work hard and stop stealing things.

He was ashamed of his habit and he was determined to try and stop his habit. But it was too difficult for him to change. Days passed without any trouble, but he could not resist the temptation for long, he fell and he was caught again. Monks paraded again to the Master taking the culprit along, the Master dismissed them saying "Give him some time he will learn".

They caught him a few more times and brought him in front of the Master for justice, he would simply dismiss them saying "Don't mind him, do your practices. He will learn to behave".  Monks were all growing impatient with their Master for his strange behavior. They couldn't understand why he wouldn't send him out of monastery.

It happened once again, they submitted the young monk in front of him, and not surprisingly he neglected the case without saying much.  This time the monks were determined, they wanted a permanent decision from the Master’s part. They said in chorus "Master we can't take it anymore, you can keep us here or this thief, we will not stay here if he stays".

"Alright then, you all may leave. I'm not going to abandon him." came the reply, monks were all surprised at the unexpected answer.

They were shocked at the decision of the Master. They pleaded him to allow them to stay with him.

"You are all good disciples, you will get admission into any monastery. But he won't be accepted anywhere else, I'm not going to leave him." said the Master.

The young monk who was watching all this was touched by the compassion of the Master and his resolve was so strong that he gave up stealing thereafter for good.

True love can often change even the toughest hearts.  We see this throughout the life and teaching of Jesus.

When Jesus called the first of his disciples, he said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men”. They had been fishermen, but Jesus was calling them to fish for people. They responded by leaving everything—their families, their careers, their futures—to follow Jesus. It started in a boat and went out to the world. Simon Peter and his brother Andrew dropped their fishing nets to follow Jesus. James son of Zebedee and his brother John left their boat and father to follow Jesus. Bartholomew’s, likely a farmer, left his family farming business to follow Jesus. Those first disciples radically recentered everything in their lives around Jesus, his teaching, and his mission. Their lives became all about Jesus. He had trained them for more than three years. The disciples were still in process—a process that would last their lifetimes. And the same is true of us. That is what discipleship is all about. It is the ongoing process of submitting all of life to Jesus.