FR. GERALD MUOKA HOMILY FOR THE 23RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
THEME: THE COST OF TRUE DISCIPLESHIP
BY: Rev Fr Gerald Muoka.
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 4 2022
R1 – Sir 3:17-18,20,28-29
R2 – Heb 12:18-19,22-24
GOSPEL – Luke 14:1,7-14
In his world-conquering march, Alexander the Great approached a highly fortified city with a formidable army, and through a messenger demanded to see the king and set out his terms of surrender. The king laughed at him and said, “Why should I surrender to your emperor Alexander? You can’t do us any harm! We can endure any siege.” As the messenger returned Alexander ordered his men to line up in single file and to jump into a big ditch from a high mountain within sight of the city walls. The city’s citizens watched with horrified fascination as one by one Alexander’s officers marched over the end of the land surface into the ditch and plunged to their deaths. After several men had obeyed his orders, he commanded them to halt. He then called his troops back to his side and stood silently facing the city. The effect on the citizens and the king was stunning. From spellbound silence they moved to absolute terror. They realized they had no walls thick enough and no defense strong enough to protect themselves against that kind of commitment and that kind of devotion. The king pondered how he could face a group of soldiers well-fortified enough to the point of being ready to die. Spontaneously, they rushed through the gates to surrender themselves to Alexander the Great.
Beloved in Christ, the kind of commitment and sacrifice of Alexander’s soldiers at the introit story, namely, their resilience and steadfastness to the military discipline, even to the point of giving up our lives, is what Jesus is asking from us in today’s liturgy. Imagine preparing to fight an army ready enough to die for what they believe in. That is exactly one palpable stride about today’s terrorists, they are willing to die for what they believe. The tragedy is that terrorists are more willing to pay a price and are more willing to die for a cause than Christian’s conviction about the faith, especially, in the face of adversity and persecutions.
However, the entire readings of this Sunday’s liturgy challenge us to the true Christian discipleship of total commitment to the will of God, while putting God first in whatever we do.
The first reading, taken from the Book of Wisdom, instructs us to ask for the gifts of discernment and strength from the Holy Spirit so that we may do the will of God as His true disciples.
The second reading, taken from St. Paul’s letter to Philemon, teaches us that detachment and renunciation are necessary for a true disciple of Christ.
Whereas, in the Gospel reading, Jesus outlines the necessary conditions for true discipleship:
(i) Detachment from family ties
(ii) Detachments from worldly tastes and values
(iii) Self-denial (Taking up one’s cross to follow Jesus)
(iv) Calculating and weighing the price of true discipleship.
*EXEGETICAL ANALYSIS OF THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP IN THE GOSPEL READING*
In order to understand today’s gospel properly, we must first consider its context. Jesus was journeying to Jerusalem, where he would he compelled to the cross and death. Most of his followers thought he was going to take over the Dividic dynasty. Looking at the cheering masses, however, Jesus frankly put before them the strenuous conditions for True Discipleship:
(i) *DETACHMENT FROM FAMILY TIES*
This command was more of a mission impossible at his time, because, in the Middle East, anyone who deliberately cut ties with family and social network would lose the ordinary means of making a living. Further, a person’s life and family relationships were a necessity for security and identity, regardless of social position. However, Jesus was only referring to spiritual detachment, the ability to put God first, before other relationships and before self-interest. Without such detachment, one does not have the ability truly to follow Jesus. Jesus cannot just be a part of our life but must be its center.
(ii) *TAKING UP YOUR CROSS AND FOLLOW JESUS*
The cross is the sign of our salvific victory made manifest through suffering. Taking up ones cross means that, in following Jesus, we must be ready to deny ourselves and bear sufferings and humiliations for Christ’s sake. Remember, taking up our own cross does not mean seeking out suffering. Jesus did not seek out his cross; he took on himself, in obedience to the Father, what men put on his shoulders, and with his obedient love, he transformed it from an instrument of torture into a sign of redemption and glory. We too, must get ready to accept and carry what men put on our shoulders for God’s sake.
(iii) *DETACHMENT’S FROM WORLDLY TASTES AND VALUES*
Another condition for true discipleship in today’s Gospel is detachment from worldly possessions: “whoever does not renounce all of his possessions and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.” (Lk 14:33). How truely can we realise this? Does it entail selling our homes and means of livelihood and patrolling the streets as destitutes and beggars? No! He means that we should lead a detached life, willingly sharing our blessings with others.
(iv) *CALCULATING THE PRICE OF TRUE DISCIPLESHIP*
Jesus uses the two parables of a tower builder and a general preparing for war, to exhort us to first weigh and calculate the cost of true discipleship. We ought to plan and strategize on living it out in all honestly and sincerity. Just as a tower builder needs to have enough in the budget for materials and as a general to win a war needs to have enough well-trained troops to defeat his opponents, so we, to be followers of Christ need to know the sufferings that keeping this commitment will demand. Sometimes, the true cost of discipleship manifests itself as it unfolds.
(1) *THERE IS NO CHEAP GRACE*
Grace is free and unmerited, yet not free. We must work for it. According Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, Baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, and grace without Jesus….Cheap grace costs us nothing.” We must heed to St Augustine admonitions, “The God who created you without you cannot save you without you. So, we have a role to play with commitment.
(2) *GRACE IS COSTLY*
Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field and the pearl of great price for which the one who believes in Jesus is willing to sell everything one has. Costly grace is the Gospel which must be lived and preached; it is the gift which must be asked for, the door at which every disciple must knock. Costly grace means following Jesus, aware of and prepared for the pitfalls of discipleship but still willing to meet them and manage them daily with his help. According to Martin Luther King Jnr., “A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.” Think twice and pay the cost of your discipleship.
Finally, we can feel the true cost of discipleship from the way the apostles paid the price of discipleship with heroic commitments and faithfulness.
Jesus’ demands from his them to carry a cross — the sign of death resulted in:
(a) Andrew died on a cross
(b) Simon was crucified
(c) Bartholomew was flayed alive
(d) James (son of Zebedee) was beheaded
(e) The other James (son of Alphaeus) was beaten to death
(f) Thomas was run through with a lance
(g) Matthias was stoned and then beheaded
(h) Matthew was slain by the sword
(i) Peter was crucified upside down
Thaddeus was shot to death with arrows
(j) Philip was hanged
Beloved, Jesus makes extreme demands from us his followers each day. Christianity, “abughi egwu achi utaba n’aka agba.” It requires total commitment, renunciation of self and faithfully paying the price of its cost, even to the point of death.
MAY THE LORD GRANT US A FIRM RESOLVE TO REMAIN FAITHFUL TO THE FAITH; COMMITTED TO OUR COMMITMENTS; CONVINCED IN OUR CONVICTIONS AND BELIEVING IN OUR BELIEF. AMEN!
_FR GERALD MUOKA_