Gospel for Sunday, September 4 Luke 14: 25-33
XXIII Sunday C
25As many people were going with him, he turned and said: 26“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father, his mother, his wife, his children, his brothers, his sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27Whoever does not carry his cross and does not come after me cannot be my disciple. 28Who among you, wanting to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, if he has the means to complete it? 29Lest, if he lays the foundation and cannot finish the work, all who see it begin to mock him, saying: 30This man began to build, but was unable to finish the work. 31Or what king, going out to war against another king, does not first sit down and consider whether he can with ten thousand men meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32If not, while the other is still far away, he sends him an embassy for peace. 33So whoever of you does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”
Luke 14: 25-33
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (www.buonabibbiaatutti.it).
Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.
We are no longer in the Pharisee’s house during a meal, but on the street and Jesus no longer speaks to the scribes and Pharisees, but to the crowd “that went with him” (14.25).
As appears from the opening words (14.26) and closing (14.33), the theme is the “necessary condition for being a disciple”.
It is certainly not a new theme, but it is treated with a strength and radicality that is difficult to find elsewhere. Radicalism is a characteristic trait of Luke, but a second trait, typically Lucanian, is the effort to bring the message of Jesus into everyday life.
Jesus invites the disciple to break all family ties, and to even break the bond with oneself (14.26). Jesus’ disturbing invitation was undoubtedly originally addressed to the itinerant missionary disciples, who, concretely, had to abandon everything to announce the arrival of the kingdom everywhere. Matthew maintains this line, placing the saying in the missionary discourse, but the community then understood this saying as addressed to everyone: it is a condition of every disciple, not just the itinerant missionary. It is in this second perspective that Luke places himself: the invitation is addressed to the crowds (14.25), that is, to everyone. Luke is more detailed in listing the bonds to be broken: not only, like Matteo, the parents and children, but also the brothers, the wife and even oneself.
Luke’s speech is not only for religious people, but for everyone: “The distinction between the Christian and the religious is ambiguous, because it is not supported by the Gospel, which asks everyone to be perfect followers of Christ” (O. Da Spinetoli ).
Pope Francis states: “The disciple of Jesus renounces all goods because he has found in Him the greatest Good, in which every other good receives its full value and meaning: family ties, other relationships, work, possessions cultural and economic and so on… Faith is not a decorative, ornamental thing, it is not decorating life with a bit of religion, like you do with the cream that decorates the cake… We cannot be part-time Christians. If Christ is at the center of our life, He is present in everything we do.”
Take up the cross
“«Taking up the cross» (14,27) was equivalent to being ready to die (see 23,26). After Jesus’ experience the “cross” had become the symbol of the suffering endured for the Kingdom of God” (O. Da Spinetoli).
“Taking up the cross” therefore means enduring every trial for the Gospel and the spread of the Kingdom. Paul writes: “Up to this moment we suffer from hunger, thirst, nakedness, we are slapped, we wander from place to place, we tire ourselves working with our hands. Insulted, we bless; persecuted, we endure; slandered, we comfort; we have become like the rubbish of the world, the refuse of all, to this day” (1 Cor 4:11-13).
“Taking up the cross” is connected to “coming after me” (14.27). Even if the torture of the cross was widespread when the Gospels were written, Christians connect “taking up one’s cross” to the Cross of Jesus, the supreme sign of self-denial, of service, of gift: “For this you were called , for Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in his footsteps” (1 Peter 2:21). Taking the Master as a model, the disciple must renounce all selfishness, all self-affirmation, and make his life, like Jesus, an oblation of love for his brothers.
“Taking up the cross” also means enduring with inner peace the sufferings of every day, illnesses, tribulations, fears, misunderstandings, betrayals; in fact “who will separate us from the love of Christ? Perhaps tribulation, anguish, persecution, hunger, nakedness, danger, the sword?” (Rom 8.35). Paul even states: “Therefore I take pleasure in my infirmities, in the insults, in the necessities, in the persecutions, in the anguish suffered for Christ: when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12,10). It is in my poverty, it is within my limits that the power of God and his daily ability to console and amaze us explode.
Let’s think about it carefully
Even the parables that follow (of the tower and the king: 14.20-31) must be read in the context of the conditions for following Jesus, that is, in the context of renunciation: following is not made for the superficial, the unreflective and the presumptuous. “Choosing Christ is like waging an all-out war against all the powers of evil… Going unprepared leads to even more serious consequences” (O. Da Spinetoli).
Often in our Churches and in our communities we are afraid to announce the Gospel of Jesus sine glossa, as it is, and a sweetened, mutilated, soft announcement is presented: we are always afraid of asking too much, so the catechesis of the Sacraments of Christian initiation or marriage is reduced to a few meetings, in which the most demanding and radical requests of Jesus are never mentioned; topics such as death, poverty, sharing of goods, chastity, eunuchism for the Kingdom are discussed less and less, that is, not remarrying, if abandoned by the spouse, to be a living sign of God’s imperishable faithfulness… Yes he is afraid that people will run away, that those few who still come to church will move away. Big smiles, great friendliness, but so afraid of entrusting ourselves to the demanding power of the Word.
The conclusion (“So whoever of you does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple”: 14.33) is probably editorial, constructed by Luke as an epilogue to the two parables and the entire pericope. Only in detachment from oneself and from possessions is it possible to be a disciple, total gift is possible (finishing the tower and defeating the enemy army).
“Putting Jesus in the middle means redefining every relationship, giving it depth and value, but also limits and opportunities. No wife, no child, no satisfaction, says Jesus, can fill the infinite desire for love that lives in our heart and that God alone fills…!
So, Lord, you challenge us: you can be more than the greatest joy we can experience: that of love for a child, of passion for a lover. We trust you, Lord, and – having done our calculations carefully – we trust you, God who alone can satisfy our thirst for the infinite!” (P. Curtaz).
Happy Mercy to all!
Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at firstname.lastname@example.org.