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23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Do You Get It?


“Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, ‘If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple’” (Luke 14:25-27).
 
Jesus continues on the road to Jerusalem—the road to the cross. It is not hard to imagine an exasperated Jesus turning to the crowd of light-hearted followers and saying these words.
 
Over the last few weeks of gospel reading, we have seen Jesus try several times in several different ways to get his followers to understand just what their commitment implies—yet still they don’t get it. The reference to the cross in this passage is a reference to an inhumane, vindictive method of demeaning and killing an enemy. Roman citizens were spared the indignity of the cross no matter what their crime. Only conquered peoples and enemies were humiliated by this manner of execution. Jesus is using this forceful image to break through the unreal expectation and false belief that he was soon to be honored and would take over earthly control.
 
So where does this leave us? More often than not, we are like the followers who just don’t quite get it. The seriousness of his followers’ commitment is also a commitment that we have signed on to—though we may not realize it. Baptism for many of us may mean little more than pictures of ourselves as babies in long white dresses. But if we have been baptized, we have had the cross traced on our foreheads; we have been claimed for Christ. We have been “baptized into the death” of Christ.
 
We are asked to die to ourselves—to abandon those parts of ourselves that draw us away from Christ—in order that we may rise to new and greater life. This is not just a one-time thing. Every day, our baptism asks us: to what do I need to die in order that I may live a life of freedom with Christ?
 
We go into death symbolically with Christ, so as to rise with him. But perhaps too often we speed through the cross and concentrate on the rising. Today’s Gospel is a reminder that Jesus is calling us to make the tough choices—to change our lives, perhaps even drastically, to follow the way he preaches.
 
– In what parts of your life do you need to die in order to rise to new and greater life?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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