Our scripture reading for this Sunday tells us about the kind of attitude that the followers of Christ must adopt. He wants his disciples like him to be selfless and dedicated to their mission. He alerts us that to be a disciple and his follower is not something cheap. It comes with a prize.
It is the price of the cross. To be a disciple one needs to really sit down and consider the cost. We need to be able figure out and make up our minds about immersing ourselves into the paschal mystery of his death and resurrection.
It is this figuring out into our relationship with God that the first reading from the book of wisdom 9:13-18 is talking about. This text is part of the prayer of the young king Solomon. When Solomon succeeded his father David as king, he realised that he was very young and inexperienced in the area of leadership and governance. This prompted him to pray to God for the gift of wisdom to be able to govern the people according to the will of God.
He was aware of the fact that we as human beings are very complicated. We are a mystery to ourselves, we find it difficult to understand ourselves, our motives and deep desires; talk less about the ways and intentions of God. What can be known by God can only be revealed by him. It is through the wisdom that comes from him that we come to understand his ways and ourselves. No matter how wise a man is in this world, yet without the wisdom that comes from on high he will be regarded as nothing.
This is why the book of wisdom tells us, “What man can know the intentions of God? Who can divine the will of the Lord? The reasoning of mortals are unsure and our intentions unstable; for a perishable body presses down the soul, and this tent of clay weighs down the teeming mind. It is hard enough for us to work out what is on earth, laborious to know what lies within our reach; who, then, can discover what lies in the heavens? As for your intention, who could have learnt it, had you not granted wisdom and sent your holy spirit from above? Thus have the path of those on earth been straightened and men been taught what pleases you, and saved by wisdom.” (Wis 9:13-18)
God’s ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts. They are as far away as the heavens are from the earth. He is the mystery that is so near and yet so far away. Our relationship with him calls for sobriety and astuteness in figuring out our way and mapping out the path we tread. So that we do not go through life sleep working. The invitation is to live through life as conscious and active participators guided by the truth and wisdom of God, rather than live like passive bystanders who have no stake in our own destiny.
This is Jesus’ invitation in the gospel, to take up our cross and follow him if we want to be his disciples. The call to discipleship that we have answered each at our baptism is not something casual. It calls for serious commitment and engagement with the mystery and practice of our faith in the daily routine and humdrum of life. It is a daily choice to stand with Christ often in difficult situations that challenges our faith and loyalty to the revealed truth of God’s wisdom.
Like Jesus tells us in the gospel, anyone intending to build a tower would first sit down and figure out the cost to see if he had enough to complete it. If not, the results would be a monument of his own stupidity or incompetence. Similarly anyone who wants to be a disciple or follower of Christ has to figure out what it would take and what is the cost of discipleship. Being a disciple of Christ cannot be a half hearted thing. It requires total commitment and detachment from worldly encumbrance. True discipleship requires self-emptying, so that we can take up the new creation that is in Christ. It is living in such a way that we can say like St Paul, it is no longer I that live but Christ who lives in me.
Jesus tells us that no disciple is greater than his master. Christ calls his disciples to be dead to the world. To crucify the old self and put on the man who has been formed in Christ Jesus. Jesus wants his disciples to know that their only security is total commitment to him.
Life’s experience teaches us to be realistic, in our engagements we need to figure out what is within our reach and what we ourselves can realistically achieve; this helps us not to rush headlong into instant commitment without considering the cost and consequences. Jesus wants his disciples to be ready to make radical and total commitment to him over above family and any other earthly considerations. It is a total self-sacrifice.
What Jesus ask his disciples to do he himself does, by his obedience to do his father’s will. Scripture tells us that even though he was God, he did not cling to his equality with God but humbled himself to take on human nature; and being as all men are he accepted death on the cross. His self-sacrificing love is what transforms the world and brings us God forgiveness and redemption.
It is this self-sacrificing love of Christ that bring redemption and mercy that the apostle Paul was appealing to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus. It is only this self-sacrificing love of Christ that can breakdown the walls and barriers of race, tribe, religion, politics and other prejudices and build bridges of friendship, respect, collaboration and human fraternity. It is to this kind of love that Christ calls his disciples. This requires a radical commitment. Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.