Meaning of Discipleship

May God’s peace dwell within you!

Although it is true that the Gospel always calls us to change, this weekend’s readings poignantly challenge us to be open to new ways of thinking. In Paul’s letter to Philemon (beloved), the request to welcome the return of Onesimus, a slave, is directed toward the unnamed master who owns Onesimus. The Apostle asks the master to regard Onesimus as Paul’s own beloved brother rather than as a slave or property possessed by the owner. To the slave owner, this is a radical change to be sure! Likewise in the Gospel, Jesus sets forth some very challenging conditions for discipleship. The use of the word “hate” in regards to one’s own life or family is strong indeed and Jesus uses it to make a definitive point. The followers of Jesus must decide that the highest priority in life is God and sharing in his work of completing God’s kingdom on earth requires unswerving commitment– it may require separation from one’s own family! To be a disciple of Jesus means to follow him not only to Church on Sunday but also into the market place on Monday. The imagery of constructing a tower helps us visualize the reality that one can give top priority to Jesus with words and even demonstrate a certain level of commitment by religious practice. But there will be times when upholding these priorities will be challenged and choices must be made. Jesus and his disciples recognize these times as crosses because they are difficult. As difficult as some of these challenges may be, we try not to feel overwhelmed or afraid because they are also cross roads by which we grow stronger in faith, love and understanding in our relationship with God. The cross is central to new life in Christ. For disciples of Jesus, the cross is salvation from compromising ourselves in every form, it is dying to what takes us away from God, and rising to what leads us closer to God. And we see in our own little crosses a share in the saving power of Christ’s cross. In what ways are you experiencing challenges to discipleship? What cross or sacrifice are you being asked to embrace? Ask Jesus and Mary for light to guide you through whatever it is. May the God of all grace preserve you in peace, health and joy! +++ Fr. Peter

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