Today’s gospel is not an easy gospel to hear. Luke tells us that large crowds were following him. We can wonder why. Were they hoping to be present when he cured the sick or give sight to a blind person or when he challenged the Scribes and Pharisees? Were they curious about what he had to say or what he might do? Did they take him seriously? I think Jesus was leery of enthusiastic people, those crowds who followed him so he wanted to clear the air and set matters straight.
A Danish theologian made this interesting statement: “what Jesus wants is followers, not admirers. To admire Jesus without trying to change our lives does nothing for Jesus or for us.” St. Paul, a true follower of Christ, tells us we are to ‘put on Christ’ and challenges us to have that same mind in us which was also in Christ Jesus who did not consider his divinity as something to be clung to and emptied himself of his divinity and took to himself our humanity to reconcile us to God and life us up to the divine.
What Jesus demands of us is that he must be number one in our lives. I remember one of our profs in the seminary telling us, make no one you hero but Christ. Anyone else can let you down.
No matter how intense, how important any of our relationships may be, if they in any way hinder or separate us from our relationship with Christ then we are admirers of Christ but not followers. All this sounds so up in the air, so out of our grasp but Christ’s demand is true ‘whoever does not give up all their possessions cannot be my disciple. He is warning us about the dangers in clinging to things and people as our possessions. Whoever prefers mother or father, brother or sister, husband or wife before me is not worthy of me.
We remember his words, “what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses himself.” Our value comes not from what we have or what we own, but from our relationship with Christ.
This gospel is a hard gospel and it’s meant to make us stop and think about the priorities of our lives. It’s true the health and integrity of our relation with Christ is measured by the health and integrity of our relationships with others – I was hungry and you fed me, I was naked and you clothed me, a stranger and you made me welcome. As often as you did things to others you did them to me.
Being a faithful Christian is not an easy to be. We can get lured into unhealthy, exploitative relationships; we can get caught up in cult of having more and more. We can be conned into the wild lifestyle of the beer commercials. All these can distract us from our real purpose of being a Christ is – to be there for others as Christ was here for us. To be Christ’s hands and feet and ears and eyes as we struggle to live our lives in imitation of him. We cannot do this on our own. We need his grace and help and strength to get through the worries that wear us down each day. We have to remembering that we are good people and sometimes we win and sometimes we fail to measure up and that’s the reality of our lives.
May each of us be able to say what St. Paul said of himself, “by God’s grace I am who I am and his grace in me has not been in vain.” With the help of that grace may we all be more than admirers of Christ but try to be faithful followers of him