Wednesday, November 6, 2013
1) Opening prayer
God of power and mercy,
only with your help
can we offer you fitting service and praise.
May we live the faith we profess
and trust your promise of eternal life.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel reading - Luke 14,25-33
Great crowds accompanied Jesus on his way and he turned and spoke to them. 'Anyone who comes to me without hating father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, cannot be my disciple. No one who does not carry his cross and come after me can be my disciple.
'And indeed, which of you here, intending to build a tower, would not first sit down and work out the cost to see if he had enough to complete it? Otherwise, if he laid the foundation and then found himself unable to finish the work, anyone who saw it would start making fun of him and saying, "Here is someone who started to build and was unable to finish."
Or again, what king marching to war against another king would not first sit down and consider whether with ten thousand men he could stand up to the other who was advancing against him with twenty thousand? If not, then while the other king was still a long way off, he would send envoys to sue for peace.
So in the same way, none of you can be my disciple without giving up all that he owns.
• The Gospel today speaks about discipleship and presents the conditions to be a disciple of Jesus. Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem, where he will die soon on the Cross. This is the context in which Jesus speaks about discipleship.
• Luke 14, 25: An example of catechesis. The Gospel today is a beautiful example of how Luke transforms the words of Jesus into catechesis for the people of the communities. He says: “Great crowds accompanied him. He turned and spoke to them”. Jesus speaks to the great crowd, that is, he speaks to all, also to the persons of the communities at the time of Luke, and today he speaks for us. In the teaching which follows, Jesus gives the conditions for those who want to be his disciples.
• Luke 14, 25-26: First condition: to hate father and mother. Some diminish the force of the word to hate and translate it as “to prefer Jesus to one’s own parents”. The original text uses the expression “to hate one’s parents”. In another place Jesus orders to love and respect parents (Lk 18, 20). How can this contradiction be explained? But is it a contradiction? At the time of Jesus the social and economic situation led the families to close themselves up in self and this prevented them to fulfil the law of ransom or liberation (goel), that is to help the brothers and sisters of the community (clan) who were threatened to lose their land or to become slaves (cf. Dt 15, 1-18; Lv 25, 23-43). Closed up in themselves the families weakened the life in the community. Jesus wants to reconstruct the life in community. This is why he asks to put an end to the restricted vision of the small family which closes up in itself and asks the family to open itself and to be united among themselves in a large family, in community. This is the sense of hating father and mother, and wife, sons, sisters and brothers. Jesus himself, when his parents of his small family wanted to take him back to Nazareth, he does not respond to their request. He ignores or hates their petition and extends his family saying: “Behold, my mother and my brothers! Anyone who does the will of God, is my brother, sister and mother” (Mk 3, 20-21.31-35). The family bonds of union cannot prevent the formation of the Community. This is the first condition.
• Luke 14, 27: Second condition: to carry the cross. “No one who does not carry his cross and come after me can be my disciple”. In order to understand well the importance of this second requirement we have to look at the context in which Luke places this word of Jesus. Jesus is going toward Jerusalem to be crucified and to die. To follow Jesus and to carry the cross means to go with him up to Jerusalem to be crucified with him. This recalls the attitude of the women who “followed and served him when he was still in Galilee and many others who went up to Jerusalem with him” (Mk 15, 41). This also reminds us of Paul’s phrase in the Letter to the Galatians: “But as for me, it is out of the question that I should boast at all, except of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Ga 6,14)
• Luke 14, 28-32: Two parables. Both of these parables have the same objective: that persons may think well before taking a decision. In the first parable he says: “Which of you here, intending to build a tower, would not first sit down and work out the cost to see if he had enough to complete it? Otherwise, if he laid the foundation and then found himself unable to finish the work, anyone who saw it would start making fun of him and saying: Here is someone who started to build and was unable to finish!” This parable needs no explanation. It speaks for itself: let each one reflect well on his/her way of following Jesus and ask him/herself if he/she values well the conditions before taking the decision to become a disciple of Jesus.
The second parable: Or again, which king marching to war against another king would not first sit down and consider whether with ten thousand men he could stand up to the other who was advancing against him with twenty thousand?. If not, then while the other king was still a long way off, he would send envoys to sue for peace”. This parable has the same purpose of the one before. Some ask: “How is it that Jesus uses an example of war?” The question is a pertinent one for us who today know the wars. The Second World War (1939-1945) caused the death to about 54 million persons! At that time, though, the wars were as commercial concurrence between enterprises which today struggle among themselves to obtain the greatest profit or gain.
• Luke 14, 33: Conclusion for discipleship. The conclusion is only one: to be Christian, to follow Jesus. Is something serious. For many people today, to be Christian is not a personal choice, and neither is it a decision for life, but a simple cultural phenomenon. They do not even think of making a choice. Anyone who is born a Brazilian is a Brazilian. He who is born Japanese is Japanese. He does not have to choose. He is born like that and will die like that. Many people are Christians because they were born like that and they die like that, without ever having had the idea of choosing or of assuming that which they are already by birth.
4) Personal questions
• To be a Christian is something serious. I have to think out well my way of following Jesus. How does this take place in my life?
• “To hate one’s parents”, community or family! How do I put together these two things? Am I capable to harmonize them?
5) Concluding prayer
Yahweh is my light and my salvation,
whom should I fear?
Yahweh is the fortress of my life,
whom should I dread? (Sal 27,1)