Twenty-Third Sunday In Ordinary Time

We are always told to read the fine print before signing a contract. We want no surprises. We want to make sure that all parties of the contract receive  their agreed share. As much as possible we want to be assured that the cost of whatever we are signing—whether in money, time, or work—is worth every ounce of ourselves we put into fulfilling the contract.
This Sunday’s gospel begins with the statement that “great crowds were traveling with Jesus.” Interesting: they didn’t know the fine print yet! Jesus bluntly challenges the crowd to take up the demands of discipleship with eyes wide open. He clearly spells out the fine print in large, large letters: disciples must put Jesus ahead of their families and even their own lives, carry their cross, and renounce all they have. Discipleship is total and unconditional. By the time Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, is tried and condemned, is nailed to the cross, the crowd had diminished greatly. Few were left. Most of his disciples abandoned him. The people turned on him. Fine print can be costly. [Living Liturgy 2013]
Jesus intends no surprises for those who choose discipleship. Here’s the fine print: we have to die if we wish to follow Jesus. The cost of discipleship seems disproportionately high compared to anything we could want or value as humans. This doesn’t seem like a very fair or advantageous contract. And this is the point: following Jesus to Jerusalem leads us beyond human calculations, beyond a signed deal. Following Jesus leads to death, to be sure, but to a death that grants us a share in God’s very Life, an outcome worth any price.
Jesus forewarns the “great crowds” traveling with him that they must “calculate the cost” and the risk of journeying with him to Jerusalem. Even family relationships cannot come before the demands of following him. However, we really cannot calculate the cost of discipleship. Yes, we must follow Jesus with eyes wide open. We must read the fine print of the cost of following him. The cost of discipleship? Everything we have and are. The reward of discipleship? Everything God has and is.
The amazing thing is that we know the cost of discipleship, yet we spend our whole lives trying to figure it out! Or trying to avoid expending the cost. There is no easy road for disciples. We must follow Jesus wherever he leads. We know that we must hand our lives over to Jesus. At the same time, we know we are not traveling this journey alone.
Faced with calculating the cost of discipleship, do we choose to be part of Jesus’ faithful companions on the journey, or do we choose to become drifters? We are Jesus’ faithful companions when, for example, we take the necessary steps to forgive someone who has seriously hurt us or stay the course of living with less so those with little can have what they need.
We drift away from Jesus when, for example, we follow the path of least resistance in face of an unjust situation or we insist on our own way despite the needs of others in our family or workplace. The cost of discipleship is this choice: to be Jesus’ companions—or drifter.
That’s fine print we are pleased to read!

Adapted from Renew International Prayer Time Cycle C