Gospel and Homily Wednesday november 8th

Wednesday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time – Option 1 – Lk 14:25-33

Jesus spares no words in today’s Gospel as He speaks about the price of discipleship. He makes it very clear that following Him not only entails sacrifices, but must also be a complete self-giving. As Saint Therese of Lisieux put it: “You cannot be half a saint, you must be a whole saint or no saint at all.”[1] “You cannot be half a saint, you must be a whole saint or no saint at all.” We can consider Christ’s words in three sets, namely, the hatred of family, the cross, and the two examples.

First, Jesus tells us: “If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters . . . he cannot be my disciple.” That word hate doesn’t mean to loathe or despise; rather, it’s the Semitic expression for saying “love less.” Jesus Christ must be the first and greatest love of our lives. Anyone who really wants to follow Christ, has to love Him more than anything else. Otherwise, our love for Christ plays second fiddle to something else, and that other thing becomes the center of our lives and our attention.

            He continues by saying “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” This would have sounded strange to Christ’s listeners, who only thought of the cross as an instrument of suffering and death. Christ is also very specific: it’s not just any old cross that gets us to heaven, but rather the cross ἑαυτοῦ (heautou), his own cross. Christ has perfectly designed our crosses for us. What another person needs is made specifically for them, or, as Saint Louis de Montfort wrote, it is “designed for him in every detail of number, measure and weight . . . fashioned [by Christ’s] own hands and with great exactness . . . [the cross which] out of love for him [Christ] has carved from a piece of the one [He] bore to Calvary . . . [and] which is the greatest gift [He] can bestow upon [His] chosen ones on earth.”[2]

             Lastly, Christ gives two analogies or parables: that of constructing a tower, and that of a king and his army. We have the saying, “Well-begun is half-done,” but . . . it’s still only half-done. The Christian vocation requires perseverance; our tendency is to slack off, and not to finish what we start. Obviously Christ is not trying to discourage us, or tell us not to even bother starting, but rather to warn us, quite clearly, about the difficulties and challenges that are involved. It’s not easy to continue carrying the cross, day after day. However, the paradox of the Christian life is that it is precisely the cross that keeps us close to Christ; it is the crosses that He gives us that keeps our love strong. This is why the saints speak of the cross in such glowing terms. As Jesus told Saint Gemma Galgani, “O My daughter, how many would have abandoned Me if they had not been crucified.” Saint Ignatius of Loyola writes that “it is not the finest wood that feeds the fire of Divine love, but the wood of the Cross,” and speaking of the need to take up the cross, especially those that are difficult to understand, Saint Teresa of Jesus says “If you seek to carry no other crosses but those whose reason you understand, [then] perfection is not for you.” Just as Moses was told to throw a piece of wood into the bitter waters at Marah, which then became sweet (cf. Ex 15:25), so too does the Cross give life to everything it touches, no matter how difficult or challenging it might be. 

            Today, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Grace, let us ask for the grace of perseverance and a love of the cross, knowing that the cross is how Jesus keeps us close to Himself.

[1] Letter of 21 June 1897 to Abbe Belliere.

[2] Letter to the Friends of the Cross.



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