07 November 2012

Gawker or disciple?

31st Week OT (W)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

It looks like Jesus wants to thin the crowd that's following him around. Surely, only a small portion of that large herd is genuinely attracted by the possibility of becoming a true disciple. Most of them are probably just gawkers or thrill-seekers. If nothing Jesus has said up to this point about the risks of following him has sunk in, this might: “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children. . .even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Now that statement gives them something to think about. What's Jesus got to offer that's worth hating your family for? It must be something truly worthwhile. Perhaps sensing that his warning is only causing some in the crowd to become even more curious, Jesus adds, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Now that bit of warning must've given the crowd pause b/c they all know that their Roman masters use crosses to execute criminals. “Carrying your own cross” means “helping in your own brutal, bloody death at the hands of the enemy.” I'm guessing at this point that many of the gawkers wander away from Jesus, and the true disciples love him all the more. 

So, here we are, another crowd, and we hear Jesus say, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Do you want to wander away? Even if you stay in your seat, do you want to wander off? Or, upon hearing that you must assist in your own execution, do you love Christ all the more? Are you a gawker or a disciple? Well, isn't it obvious that we are all disciples? We're at morning Mass everyday. We never miss a Sunday. We give to the parish; pray everyday; participate in church groups. All true. And all of that makes us good Catholics. But the question is: are we disciples? A disciple is a kind of student, a learner; someone under the instruction of a master-teacher. While a student learns an academic subject, a disciple masters a way of life, a way of living. More than learning the content of a subject, the disciple learns both content and method; that is, she takes in and makes her own what is being taught and makes it the means by which she survives as a follower of Christ in the world. A student memorizes the Our Father. A disciple actually lives the Our Father. A student goes to Mass, while a disciple lives the Mass. A student learns the definition of sacrificial love. A disciple loves sacrificially. 

Are you a gawker or a disciple? Here's one way to tell: when Jesus says, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple,” do you think, “Whoa. I'm just here for Mass,” or do you think, “Which of my crosses will I joyfully carry today?” Here's another way: when Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children. . .even his own life, he cannot be my disciple,” do you think, “Whoa. Mom, dad, the kids are more important to me than being a disciple,” or do you think, “I can only love mom, dad, and the kids if I love Christ first”? Loving Christ first is the first step in becoming a disciple. Making that love your means for surviving in the world is the next step. The third step is lifting that love up and carrying it day-by-day until you are called upon to die for it. And the final step comes when you joyfully assist in your own execution for the sake of Christ's love. A gawker will not die for love. A student might die for a cause or an idea. A disciple will die for Christ in love b/c she knows that such a death is last step along the Narrow Way, following behind Christ in sacrifice for the salvation of the world. 

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  1. I'm back :). Be gentle as I find my sea legs again!

    I appreciate your comparison of student vs disciple; seemingly it is easier to be a good student - taking the leap to discipleship involving taking the teachings to heart and incorporating them into all we do/say/think, etc. Humility required.

    Final paragraph was great: but maybe one day a discussion regarding joy? Many I meet don't see or understand the difference between happiness and joy - for it has been my experience that as I answer these questions for myself and try to carry my cross(es), there is often sadness as an external, temporary, emotion mixed with the internal joy that is permanent and lasting. (I wonder if that confuses people.)

    And certainly I agree "loving Christ first is the first step", but again (and slightly off-topic)I see misunderstanding as we look at our finite existence, our finite understanding of love - for loving Christ first does not mean we do not love others. Christ is first, and our Love for/in/through Him enables us to love here on Earth more fully, more completely, and with such abandon! How do you explain that reality of Love to someone who only seems to see that you love Christ more than you love them, and they can only see this as an obstacle rather than an opportunity for a deeper, more fulfilling love?

    Thanks for making me think - helping me to see more deeply into the path I desire to follow.

    1. P.S. Re: question asked in my response: it needs no answer :-). Figured you probably knew that! It was just where my mind went from your homily...and yes, I know I just left myself wide-open for some smart remark from you!