- Fr. John Jennings
Our Sacred Stories ~ Disciples in the Making
September is a season of change. The long hazy, even lazy days of summer are coming to an end. The vacations are behind us and the more regular work schedule is resumes. Schools and colleges and universities are opening their new year. The new season in many ways is a new stage in our life journey. For many, whether student or teachers or someone beginning new work, September launches us into unfamiliar territory. It will call us to take up the risks of something new and unfamiliar. September is also a season that demands a willingness to take a risk and make a commitment.
Luke's Gospel, (Luke 14:25-33) relates a story of Jesus in the midst of a large and enthusiastic crowd. They are would-be disciples. Are they really disciples? Can they be disciples? Are they ready for discipleship? Some are there simply because they are following the crowd. Others are curious, hoping to see one of the miracles or wonders they are told he does. Are they really hearing his message and buying into his mission – accepting the invitation to actively build God`s reign in our world?
Jesus turns to them and expresses the message in radical terms: ``If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.`` What an outlandish statement! Who can accept this? But we can assume it gets the attention of those in the crowd.
To be a disciple calls for commitment, deep commitment. Some really want to enter into such discipleship. They hear what Jesus has said. They see what he has done. The message and the mission seem to be what they are searching for. But they do not yet understand all that is involved. They may not be fully convinced or committed, but they are willing to offer a tentative “yes”, to take a chance.
Whether we recognize it or not this is where most, if not all of us are. We are disciples in the making. Our quest in life finds us on a journey with this Jesus and his message. But our “yes” is always less than perfect. Perhaps it will always be this way. We will always be in a state of becoming.
To hear the words we find in Luke’s Gospel can be threatening. Who can make such a commitment? The radical demand that Luke describes is well beyond us and can be daunting and discouraging. What happens if we do not meet this demand of total and complete commitment to the message and mission? What happens if we do not fully respond to the baptismal call we have been given, if our Christian life is less than perfect, if our commitment is not so total? Can I take the risk?
Our Scriptures help us here. They tell the story of a God who loves us, a God of mercy, compassion and forgiveness. This is how God has repeatedly dealt with the chosen people of Israel. Prophet after prophet he sent to them. Throughout the New Testament, this is the God who is revealed in the person of Jesus, the God who has come to share our humanity.
Sure, we are less than perfect disciples. We are on a life journey of striving in our discipleship. We fall short. We often fail. We are ever in a state of becoming. Both as individual disciples and as church, we often discover we can’t quite measure up. But we trust in the Jesus that we see in the Gospels who welcomes all and who reaches out to us when we are at our weakest and most inadequate.
We also recognize that God sees the strength that we actually do possess and the desire to make a commitment that we may not fully manage to live up to. That is just the way our God of love is, and for this God and for God’s love we give thanks.