Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’
Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
The best coach I ever had, my high school track and cross-country coach, told us “the runner-up is the enemy of the champion.” He was, of course, exaggerating – as my twin brother would tell me after finishing just ahead of me in a race! But his point was sound: we should especially avoid allowing from ourselves an all-too-easy second-best effort at whatever we put our hearts to in this life.
Today’s Gospel makes a similar exaggeration. Jesus does not want us to “hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even life itself”. That exaggeration just grabs our attention for the next (also figurative) sentence: “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple”. That is the cost of discipleship: to prefer Jesus above all earthly things and even above all people. Is there anything that makes Jesus the runner-up in your life instead of the champion?
—Greg Ostdiek, SJ is a priest of the Midwest Jesuits who was a distance runner in high school and college. He was ordained this past June.
I am the Lord your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt,
out of the house of slavery;
you shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol,
whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above,
or that is on the earth beneath,
or that is in the water under the earth.
You shall not bow down to them or worship them;
for I the Lord your God am a jealous God…
—Ex 20:2-5aPlease share the Good Word with your friends!