(Luke 9:51-62) Jesus is always on the lookout for disciples. If there had been newspapers in His day, I imagine that an ad in the Classifieds would have read something like this:
Help Wanted! Disciples needed to spread the Good News of the Gospel. Must be willing to leave everything behind. Work involves long hours and extensive travel. All disciples must be available 24/7 to proclaim God’s Word. No previous experience is required – God will provide the necessary grace! For more information, contact Jesus. He doesn’t have a fixed address, but He is always available through prayer.
P.S. Only serious candidates need apply. This is a lifetime commitment – there is no turning back.
Sounds daunting, doesn’t it? Yet while being a disciple of Jesus is not always easy, it is always a privilege and a joy. Even better, the invitation to follow Him is one that is extended to each one of us. Created as individuals, we each have our own unique personalities and gifts. It is no surprise, then, that each invitation is just as unique and personal. Jesus calls some of us to the priesthood, some to religious life, and others to the married or single life. The ultimate question always comes down to whether we will choose to follow Him, or whether we will set off on our own path. We have a choice. We don’t have to say “yes” to God’s plan for our lives.
In today’s Gospel, we read of three men who are called to follow Jesus. The first man is so excited at the prospect of being a disciple that he doesn’t even wait for a formal invitation. “I will follow you wherever you go,” he generously exclaims (Lk 9:57). But Jesus gently points out that the road is not easy, that following Him might mean not even having a home to call his own. Jesus doesn’t ‘sugar coat’ the journey that lies ahead. There is a reason that He tells us that whoever wants to be His disciple must be prepared to take up his (or her) cross. (cf. Mt 16:24) He wants us to go in with our eyes wide open, to understand the challenges as well as the blessings of being a disciple.
Jesus invites the second and third ‘would-be’ followers directly. But although they are open to the idea, they hesitate. “Lord, let me first go and bury my father” (Lk 9:59). “Let me first say farewell to those at my home” (Lk 9:61). Because their “yes” is conditional, the risk is that they may miss the opportunity altogether – that the moment will pass and they will never find the courage to make that leap of faith.
Did these men ultimately follow Jesus? We don’t know. But what we can be certain of is that Jesus respected whatever decision they made. His own actions witness to this fact. Although the Samaritan people turned Jesus away, He chastised James and John for suggesting that they seek revenge by bidding fire to come down from heaven to consume the people (cf. Lk 9:52-55). He responded instead by quietly accepting the rebuff and moving on to another village, continuing to invite and welcome all who were open to the Gospel message of Salvation. Cardinal Schönborn writes, “He has not come to make people his slaves with fire and sword. His goal is Jerusalem, for it is there that he intends to give up his life for men – not to compel them to do anything but to free them from the compulsion of sin.”1
Today, consider your own response to Jesus’ invitation to follow Him. What is He asking of you? How will you respond?
– Sharon van der Sloot
1 Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, Jesus, The Divine Physician, trans. Henry Taylor (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2008), 92-93.