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…Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’ Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops? But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms. (Luke 14:26-32)
Lord Jesus Himself explains these little parables of the tower and the king preparing for battle: They have to do with becoming His disciple.
Everybody reading this Catholic? Maybe a couple interested visitors—and you are very welcome, of course. Otherwise, we are Catholics here. Which means… 1. We believe the Nicene Creed. 2. We pray the Our Father. 3. We celebrate the sacraments. 4. We acknowledge the authority of the Ten Commandments and the Church’s laws.
Do these four fundamentals make us disciples of Christ? Well, yes, actually. Or maybe we should say: the four fundamentals keep us close enough to Him so that we can become His disciples.
Then comes the sweet agony, day by day, of marching to Mt. Calvary. Accepting Christ as our living teacher, guide, and master—that’s not some abstract theory of life. He died, and now He is alive. He knows all and governs all. And to follow Him means marching directly to one place. Golgatha.
A lot of people think Christianity means being nice, which it does. A Christian is a kind person. But Christianity is not itself “nice.” Christ Himself, as master and lord: not particularly “nice.”
Christianity entails being nice to other people. But for a reason. Christianity means being nice to other people because we are all going to die. We are all going to die. What good will it do us to fight over the toys on the floor? Some of us look better than others right now. But, over the course of the next 500 years or so, mostly we will look like skeletons.
What answer do we have for this, other than Jesus Christ Himself, the actual Person? He is the only truly practical answer to the inevitable oblivion that stares us all square in the face.
Therefore: We love father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters—and our own lives—because Jesus loves them. But we hate, despise, shun, and reject anything that gets between us and Him.
“Blessed is the one who will dine in the kingdom of God!” (Luke 14:15)
Our invitation to dine in the Kingdom of God has a special name. Starts with a ‘v.’ Vocation.
The Lord invites us all to His feast precisely by giving us our unique pilgrim life to lead. He made each of us and equipped us perfectly to reach heaven. How? By doing His will 24/7.
But, Father! How can I know whether or not I am doing His will all the time?
Christ told a parable by way of an answer. Let’s look and see what made God mad, in the parable…
A man gave a great dinner to which he invited many. When the time for the dinner came, he dispatched his servant to say to those invited, ‘Come, everything is now ready.’
But one by one, they all began to excuse themselves. The first said to him, ‘I have purchased a field and must go to examine it; I ask you, consider me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have purchased five yoke of oxen and am on my way to evaluate them; I ask you, consider me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have just married a woman, and therefore I cannot come.’
The servant went and reported this to his master. Then the master of the house in a rage commanded his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in here the poor and the crippled, the blind and the lame. (Luke 14:16-21)
One invitee had said he would come to the great dinner. (If he hadn’t already RSVP’d in the affirmative, the servant never would have gone looking for him.) But then the invitee didn’t come, because he had to plan out the good use of his land for farming.
Now, farming hardly qualifies as a sin. Doing good things in this world for the benefit of others, so they can eat: admirable work. But even good deeds aimed at other people’s physical health do not trump God. God comes first.
Second invitee said he would come, but then he didn’t, because he wanted to evaluate his oxen.
Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. This man might be the most expert oxen evaluator in the Holy Land. He might be the Steve Jobs or Bill Gates of oxen in Palestine, an absolute genius entrepreneur capitalist.
But God comes first. I might be the smartest man on the face of the earth. But if I disobey God, how smart am I, really?
Third invitee was all set to break bread with the Lord. But then he decided to get married instead. Hardly evil to get married. None of us would be here without it. But God comes first.
Our vocations involve the deepest mysteries of our own souls. And God’s plan. Lots of things that we do not now understand.
But obeying God, obeying His law: that is not exactly hard to figure out how to do. The Ten Commandments are not vague. The law of charity and kindness is not vague.
Maybe that’s the greatest mystery of all, about our vocations: If I want to follow my vocation faithfully, let me just obey the law of God today. Next thing I know, I will be sitting at the banquet.