NOT JUST ANY OLD WAY
Jesus is heading to Jerusalem. The evangelist tells us that «great crowds accompanied him». Nevertheless, Jesus has no illusions. He doesn’t allow himself to be deceived by the superficial enthusiasm of the people. Some today are worried about how the number of Christians is going down. Jesus is more interested in the quality of his followers than in their number.
Suddenly he turned around and began to talk to that crowd about the concrete demands that are involved in walking with him in a clear and responsible manner. He doesn’t want people to follow him in just any old way. To be Jesus’ disciple is a decision that must mark a person’s whole life.
Jesus talks in the first place about the family. The people he addresses have their own family: fathers and mothers, wife and children, brothers and sisters. These are the ones they most love and are most intimate with. But if they don’t put to one side these family interests in order to work with him in promoting a human family, not based on blood bonds but built on justice and fraternal solidarity, they can’t be his disciples.
Jesus isn’t thinking about tearing homes apart, getting rid of tenderness and family living. But if someone has as their supreme priority the family honor, the patrimony, the inheritance, the family well-being, that person can’t be his disciple or work with him in the project of a more human world.
Even more. If someone only thinks about herself and her own things, if she lives only to enjoy her own well-being, if she is only worried about her own interests: don’t be deceived – that person can’t be Jesus’ disciple. They lack the interior freedom, wholeness, responsibility they need to take Jesus’ project seriously.
Jesus continues talking harshly: «No one who does not carry his cross and come after me can be my disciple». If someone lives to avoid problems and conflicts, if someone doesn’t know how to take on risk and hardship, if someone isn’t ready to endure suffering for God’s Reign and God’s justice, that person can’t be Jesus’ disciple.
Pope Francis’ freedom is surprising as he denounces Christian lifestyles that have little to do with being Jesus’ disciples: «Christian of good manners but bad habits», «museum believers», «legalistic hypocrites», «Christians incapable of swimming against the current», «corrupt» Christians who only think of themselves, «educated Christians» who don’t announce the Gospel…
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf