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September 4, 2016

The passage of the Gospel today is one of some hard and radical sayings from Jesus as St. Luke's Gospel portrays him, but this saying goes further than others.  The basic foundation of Christian discipleship is summarized in one central idea: total dedication.  Family relationship and one's own life must be subordinated to the following of Jesus with whatever cross-bearing that may entail.  The message from Jesus is clear.  It sounds more like a warning than an invitation.  It is costly to be a disciple of Jesus.  One had better consider the cost before making the commitment.

Not too long ago in a communist country, there was a ten-year-old-girl whose parents and older siblings had been scattered to distant labour camps because they were Catholic and worked closely with the parish priest.  The girl was first taken to an orphanage.  The problem came when she refused to give up the cross her mother had hung around her neck before leaving.  She tied a knot so that the people could not take it from her during sleep.  The struggle went on and on, but it was not good.  She would not give up the cross.  She said to them, "You can choke me and take it from my corpse if you like."

The people were good enough not to kill her nor take her cross.  But she buried her youth by doing ten years in a labour camp.

In some circumstances to follow Christ might mean sacrificing the dearest things in life.  Thus, if one is a Christian in certain countries, one has to say goodbye to advancement in one's job, and become a second class citizen in that society.  But there is a price to be paid in the free world too.  Some doctors emigrated rather than taking part in abortions.  To seek reconciliation with another person might mean losing face and sacrificing one's pride.  Those who are trying to live Christian life today are faced, not with martyrdom, not even with hostility, not even with contempt.  They are faced with the deadly indifference of their fellow human beings, lightened only by occasional bursts of amused curiosity.

Ours is not a comfortable religion, but a very demanding one.  To take it seriously is to walk a rocky road.  The crucial demands of Jesus should not take our courage away.  When Jesus speaks about family ties and giving up one's life, he is primarily asking for a change in mind-set.  All of us can begin to think differently.   The claims of Jesus are always the first and foremost criteria of Christian life even though they require no less sacrifices.  Jesus knew what he was talking about.  And his grace is enough for us to live out our Christian life.  The remaining question is whether we take his teaching seriously or not.  In the celebration of the Eucharist, we pray that our whole lives must be an offering we present to God every day of our lives.