There is a sense of urgency in the readings today.
“Come After me!”
“Let the dead bury their dead”;
“Come away and proclaim the kingdom of God!”
“Lord, I will follow You, but first let me…. NO, Come now!” For would-be followers, there is no tomorrow. Jesus demanded an immediate response – a personal conversion now! His call was an immediate invitation that had to be answered now!
His call was an immediate turning away from persons and things to a total commitment to an acceptance of Him so that He could eventually say to Peter: “Who do you say that I am?”
Jesus demands no less of us than He demanded of Peter, James, and John when He told them to abandon their nets and their father to follow Him now! Jesus demands no less of us than He demanded of Levi sitting by his customs house, and Jesus said to him: Follow Me”. He got up immediately and followed Jesus. How different from the two men in the Gospel today who upon realizing the cost of discipleship said in reply to Jesus’ invitation: “ I will follow You, but…”
In the Gospel today, Jesus had begun his public ministry. Jesus encountered three potential disciples. The first man wanted to follow Jesus, but he wanted an easy life. Jesus tells him that a disciple has no permanent home in this world, that there will be hardships, and that he should not put his trust in the empty promises of the world.
It’s easy to follow Jesus when everything is well, but the real test of being a disciple is in maintaining that enthusiasm when the emotion is gone, or when we encounter ridicule because of our beliefs, or when forces like pleasure and comfort try to pull us off the path.
The second man wants to bury his father and then follow Jesus, but Jesus uses the occasion to teach that the kingdom of God must be more important than any other consideration in this world. He is not telling us not to bury those who have died: He is telling us to move forward with our lives. In spite of the death of a loved one, we are to continue living fully and not allow sadness and grief to paralyze us. We are never to permit discouragement to take control of our lives because our hopes and dreams get shattered and broken by death or failure.
Finally, a third man approaches Jesus with the promise of following Him after saying goodbye to his family. Jesus’ reply is not that the disciple should not say goodbye to his family. Jesus is saying that anyone who makes the decision to live according to His way, cannot look back with longing for any old, sinful way of living: those things must be left in the past.
The final verse of the Gospel today sums up Jesus’ teaching on discipleship. Looking back is distracting; looking back serves no purpose. The attitude of a disciple is to be the attitude of Jesus – set out with determination. “Gently in the manner – firmly toward the goal.”
The world today presents many conflicting moral options that stand against being a true disciple of Jesus. We are pulled in many directions. We’re too busy to take a stand today, and we have a mountain of things to do tomorrow. We often stand undecided as to what we should do. Rev. Schuller used to say “Don’t just sit there – do something!”
To be a disciple means that we decide to follow Jesus “TODAY – NOW” no matter what the cost.
In the Gospel today, Jesus calls us to be His disciples. To be a disciple of Jesus is not one single moment of saying: “I accept you as my personal Lord and Savior.” It’s the acceptance of all the teachings of Jesus – the easy ones as well as the difficult ones – the entire deposit of faith.
It’s freely choosing to follow Jesus and His Holy Catholic Church every hour of every day – making Faith in Him our priority. It’s saying: “Lord, I put my life in Your Hands.” It is said with St. Augustine: “My heart is restless until it rests in You.”