23RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – C
We all became disciples of Jesus when we were baptized, mostly when we were yet tiny babies. It was the deliberate decision of our parents knowing it was for our own good as it was for them. The Christian community surrounding us represented by our family circle, the parish and the religious environment helped in raising us as good members of the Church. As we come to the right age, we have to take up the faith handed down to us with our own personal conviction. We found out that being Christians is not just being baptized, going to church on Sundays, saying prayers and attending novenas. There is a lot more most especially if we want to live out our discipleship more seriously.
No one lives without goals in life. As Christians our ultimate goal is to be with God for the rest of our life in eternity. We believe that Jesus, being the Way, the Truth and Life, is the only one who can lead us in achieving that goal. This is the reason why we follow Him. But this discipleship is not just an ordinary venture because it permeates the core of our being. Although it is God’s gift to us nevertheless we have to pay the cost and fulfill the requirements towards the full blossoming of that gift. If we have set our goal, any person, things or situation that come in between in achieving that goal should be eliminated. Jesus’ teaching on renunciation is just like that. We are not to hate our spouses, parents, brothers, sisters, children nor hate own selves because as Christians we love those whom God loves. But if a person becomes a hindrance in our following of Jesus, we have to make a sacrifice in our preference to Jesus. This is also true to all material goods which in themselves are a means to live good Christian lives. But nothing, even our most expensive possessions, is absolute hence the call for detachment.
I have a friend who comes from a very Catholic family, went to Catholic schools, served as an altar server and is a good man. But when his younger sister got sick of cancer and died, he could not understand why such a loving God let that tragedy befell their family. He became depressed, stopped going to mass and eventually left the Church. He loved his sister very dearly so much so that he stopped following Jesus because he could not be detached to his sister even in her death. This might also be true to those who have lost their loved ones, are not able to move on and cannot get away from grieving for a number of reasons.
No one and nothing in this world has absolute value that should define our existence; we may be privileged to possess them for a time because they are God’s gifts to us as His children. Jesus’ call for renunciation is to put our value system in the right perspective in terms of the ultimate goal He set for us. Because Jesus is the absolute standard by which we measure up everything in life, all things become relative in Jesus. Loved ones, material possessions, power, authority even kingdoms and powerful empires are all passing away.
There are those who are called to renounce totally everything for the sake of the Kingdom. They leave families, homelands, careers, some even go for perpetual seclusion; all for the love of Jesus. They take the vow of poverty because they believe that Jesus suffices hence the renunciation of everything. It may sound crazy for the materialistic world but in reality it is the wisest thing to do. They have found the true treasure and joy even while still on earth.
To those who follow Jesus in the ordinariness of their lives, St. Paul reminds us: “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus as My Lord” (Phil. 3:8).
At the end we will find that those we have given up for the sake of Jesus are given back to us but now restored, transformed and renewed.