|Jesus Carrying the Cross (1967) Salvador Dali|
- Jeremiah 18:1-11 and Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 •
- Deuteronomy 30:15-20 and Psalm 1 •
- Philemon 1:1-1:21 •
- Luke 14:25-33
“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple” This line from the Gospel for the 16th Sunday in Pentecost has traditionally been included in the ‘hard sayings’ of Jesus – sayings that, on the surface at any rate, seem impossibly hard to accept. Who could require, still less commend, that we hate our parents? To understand the message, though, we have to allow for a level of exaggeration characteristic of the time and place in which Jesus spoke. It is not the emotion of hatred that is being commended, but a willingness to give even the deepest attachments of family life second place to Christian discipleship.
For many people, however, this is still a step too far, and smacks uncomfortably of religious fanaticism. Indeed, if we take at face value, only the life of monk, nun or hermit could accord with this requirement.Christian faith and ordinary life, it appears, cannot be combined.
There is no getting round the fact that we confront a real choice here, and a difficult one. Yet as the lives of Christians across two millennia have shown, ordinary life can still be one of faithful discipleship. The crux lies in the way we order our priorities. Happily, most Christians are never confronted with a straightforward clash between the claims of Christ and those of family life. But at much more mundane levels -- the demands of career, business, sport, leisure -- it is easy to put Christ in second place. The key thought is this: when we accept God on our terms rather than on His, we effectively relinquish our discipleship.
|The Slave Market (1880) Gustave Boulanger|