Reflection by Fr. Ed Liptak, SDB
St. Luke has carefully exhibited that on the last trip of Jesus to Jerusalem, he was ever aware of what lay ahead. He described the mind of Jesus in an earlier chapter. Jesus had just finished strong lessons about entering the Kingdom of Heaven and being careful, because the way to salvation is not easy, and who can know when God will call. Then, Jesus betrayed his own feelings: “I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism with which I am to be baptized, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!” (Lk 12; 49-50).
Quite clearly Luke kept aware of this state of mind of Jesus as he continued his narrative. Last weekend we saw the effort of Jesus to save even his Pharisee enemies as he dined with them. This 23rd Sunday, Jesus speaks to all who wish to follow him. His message is firm. ‘Don’t put even the closest members of your family above me!’ he warns. ‘Not even yourself!’ If you do, don’t call yourself my disciple.’ “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:26-27). Again, Jesus speaks of the cross, his and ours, on his way to win salvation and open the Kingdom. He is challenged by his Father, and he challenges us to bear the cross together with him.
Jesus does not leave us without advice on how to do this. It is good will, effort, and readiness. First, we must willingly grant that being a good Christian is a demanding task. We all have a natural inclination to be thought well of. Jesus knew this, and he invited us to use that tendency to help, not deter our salvation. Hence the example of the builder who dove into putting down a foundation for a tower, then had no means to finish it. People laughed him to scorn. So, we ought to be careful about how good a Christian we are, lest we collapse along the way and be scorned just as the builder was.
Or his second example: Here we are, Christian soldiers marching off to war. We are going to do battle. Good soldiers that we are, we look ahead. We tell ourselves, “The battle won’t be easy. Attacks against me will be powerful. Will I have sufficient strength to be victorious?” That is, for the Christian, “Will I be saved? Will I make it into heaven?” What reinforcement will I need?” Jesus answers: “You will need my help. You will need prayer, commitment, trust in me.
Onward, Christian Soldier, Onward, as to War,
With the Cross of Jesus, going on before.
It is not necessary to pile on added penances. Just to be willing to accept our own daily crosses, even being willing to lose everything of this world, but never Jesus, never eternal life! Lord Jesus, we want to be yours.