23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C)
Following the Lord—a Matter of the Heart and Mind
Msgr. Thomas Gervasio
Our school opens this Tuesday. It’s been said, “Kids like to go to school. Kids like to return from school. It’s the “in between” they don’t like.” In the school of discipleship we might feel the same way. In what is between our arrival at church and our return home, we hope that we can be attentive, prayerful and learn something from the Lord.
Today Jesus teaches us that discipleship, that living the Gospel is demanding. The Lord’s teaching is often hard and difficult to accept. Today we hear a few of those “hard” things. Three times he clearly says that there are those who may want to follow him but who don’t qualify: Those who prefer father, mother, wife, children and the care of one’s own affairs; those who reject the cross; and those unable to renounce their possessions.
Jesus explains what he means with two examples: He first tells us how embarrassed a man would be if he tried to build a tower without sufficient resources. He also tells us how foolish it would be for a king to go into battle without an adequate number of troops.
What is the lesson? A disciple of Christ must count the cost. A disciple must be reflective, wise and prudent. But we live in a culture that is not very reflective. Today it is fashionable to live life as it comes. Decisions are often made on impulse, instinct, passion and the heart.
A best-selling novel entitled, “Follow Your Heart” advised: “When many roads open up before you and you do not know which one to take, do not enter one at random but sit down and wait. Be still and in silence listen to your heart. Then when it speaks to you stand up and go where it takes you.” “Sit down and wait” is advice that has something in common with today’s Gospel. But then the author tells us that the heart will speak. But we must discern whether our heart is connected to reason or whether it is at the mercy of our impulses, feelings or vague sentiments. Don’t we often say, “In my heart I know this is right?” In my heart I know this is the way to go?” We would do well to remember the warning of Jeremiah: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Perhaps we should wait then for someone to write a novel entitled, “Follow your Brain”—because a Christians does not impulsively throw themselves into things: they are prudent and reflective. Like Mary, the sister of Martha, they take “the better part” and place themselves at the feet of Jesus and listen.
Those who follow Jesus “count the cost” and consider:
- Is God a priority in my life, before all human relationships and affairs? Do I make decisions under the light of the Gospel’s teachings?
- Do I accept the crosses that come in life? Do I carry them as the Lord or do I drag them along complaining as I go?
- What is my attitude toward material things, my possessions? Am I self-absorbed without a thought for the suffering, the poor and needy? Am I selfish or selfless?
Today the Church Universal rejoices in the canonization of St. Teresa of Calcutta, the faithful disciple who understood the cost of following the Lord. Let us go to her with our intentions…I should like to think that on her canonization day she is “well disposed” and will be pleased to intercede on our behalf.