Wed, August 31, 202210 mins readFather Hans Buob

23rd Sunday

Biblical Homilies on the Sunday Gospels in Reading Year C

Ⓒ Photo by amorsanto on Cathopic

Bible passages


Luke 14:25-33

Large crowds were travelling with Jesus. He turned and spoke to them. He said, ‘Anyone who comes to me must hate their father and mother. They must hate their wife and children. They must hate their brothers and sisters. And they must hate even their own life. Unless they do this, they can’t be my disciple. Whoever doesn’t carry their cross and follow me can’t be my disciple. ‘Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you sit down first and figure out how much it will cost? Then you will see whether you have enough money to finish it. Suppose you start building and are not able to finish. Then everyone who sees what you have done will laugh at you. They will say, “This person started to build but wasn’t able to finish.” ‘Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. And suppose he has 10,000 men, while the other has 20,000 coming against him. Won’t he first sit down and think about whether he can win? And suppose he decides he can’t win. Then he will send some men to ask how peace can be made. He will do this while the other king is still far away. In the same way, you must give up everything you have. Those of you who don’t cannot be my disciple.

Biblical Homilies


"Large crowds were travelling with Jesus. He turned and spoke to them. He said, ‘Anyone who comes to me must hate their father and mother. They must hate their wife and children. They must hate their brothers and sisters. And they must hate even their own life. Unless they do this, they can’t be my disciple. Whoever doesn’t carry their cross and follow me can’t be my disciple." (cf. verse 25-27)

Jesus is still on the way to Jerusalem, where death and resurrection await him. So he approaches his hour and trains those who follow him to be his disciples by telling them what is involved in being a disciple. He sets conditions, so to speak because following Christ is not a matter for the masses, but a personal decision of individuals. This becomes very clear in Jesus' words: "If anyone" - not the masses - "comes to me and does not hold father and mother, wife and children... in low esteem." - Here, too, the singular is always written.

In Greek, it literally means "to hate" instead of "to hold in low esteem", as it is written in the English translation. But Jesus is in no way overruling the commandment to love one's neighbour or to honour one's parents. Hate is the opposite of love, and the disciple's love for the Lord must be as high above love for the family as love is above hate. Nevertheless, I should of course honour and love my parents.

Following Jesus even requires the willingness to die and thus the total letting go of all human ties. That is why Jesus says quite clearly: Whoever does not "even hate his life" cannot be my disciple." And: "Whoever does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem, where the cross awaits him, and his disciple should follow Jesus with their own cross, i.e. they should be willing to give their life, even to death in the literal sense. But to give oneself completely is also to die to oneself: I no longer live for myself. It is no longer about me. I am only concerned with Jesus, my Master, whom I follow. I follow him, as it were, completely and utterly in absolute obedience, even unto death. Even this surrender, in which I hand over my whole self to Jesus, is already an expression of dying into Him.

"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you sit down first and figure out how much it will cost? Then you will see whether you have enough money to finish it. Suppose you start building and are not able to finish. Then everyone who sees what you have done will laugh at you. They will say, “This person started to build but wasn’t able to finish.” ‘Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. And suppose he has 10,000 men, while the other has 20,000 coming against him. Won’t he first sit down and think about whether he can win? And suppose he decides he can’t win. Then he will send some men to ask how peace can be made. He will do this while the other king is still far away." (cf. verse 28-32)

Then Jesus brings two parables: of the building of the tower and of warfare. These parables are meant to show what the disciple actually has to do: build and fight. We already sense from these first thoughts and words of Jesus that following Christ is not that easy. My love for the Lord must be as high above my love for parents and family as love is above hatred - that requires enormous strength of will. And also "taking up the cross unto death" is a serious decision.

Jesus speaks of building a house and of warfare. Both life tasks must be considered and taken soberly, not in false enthusiasm. I have to think about whether I can really go this way with Christ, even unto death, whether I can detach myself from everything and from everyone - under certain circumstances also from loved ones, whom I am allowed to love, but in such great freedom that the love for the Lord stands head and shoulders above the love for these people. I have to ask myself: Can I do that?

In following Christ, the disciple must therefore determine whether his strength is sufficient for this at all, as described in the parables: When he builds a tower, he must consider whether he has the necessary means. Otherwise, he lays a foundation and cannot finish the building and people mock him. In the same way, the one who wants to wage war. He must consider beforehand whether he can win this war at all. These are two very important images for our discipleship. We have to be clear: Discipleship is not our doing, not our ability - that's why Jesus gives such massive examples - but it is the gift of God. I have to ask for discipleship. Jesus calls me. We have already heard it in other gospels: Come! Follow me! His call exhibits more power than being just a commandment. And only when I listen to his call do I have the strength to go.

If I ask myself: Can I do this on my own? then I have to be honest and say: No. If I think I can do everything on my own, then I will be like someone who starts to build a foundation, can no longer continue to build and is ridiculed. This is comparable to someone who pretends to be a great follower of Christ in front of others, but in the end, sits somewhere far away from Christ and is ridiculed. The disciple, too, must honestly realize that his strength for discipleship and following Christ until death is not enough, but that he must rely solely on the Lord's strength and ability. As Paul puts it, "When I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Cor 12:10), i.e. where I recognise my poverty, my not being able to do something out for myself, where I am weak and also stand by it, there I am strong. Where we can no longer get ahead, the Lord comes to our help. Poverty is a prerequisite for God's action - the realization that we cannot do anything on our own. A construction project that has collapsed is a source of ridicule - and so is a failed disciple of Christ.

"In the same way, you must give up everything you have. Those of you who don’t cannot be my disciple." (cf. verse 33)

The final sentence summarizes everything once again. No one can be Jesus' disciple who does not renounce all that he possesses, all that is secured for him - including human strength, human effort and human ability - and realizes that everything is given by the Lord. I expect everything from Christ! No one can be Jesus' disciple if he does not renounce all his possessions, i.e. who does not rely on anything earthly but only on the power of God. These do not have to be material things. It can also be spiritual abilities. Whoever says: I have such a strong will, I will follow Christ, is already mistaken.

And that's when we have to think: What does it look like in my life? Where do I decide to do the Word of God? Where do I live discipleship as a total surrender to Christ - if necessary, even unto death? This total surrender without condition, the Second Conversion, as the tradition calls this step, is not something I can do on my own. It is a gift, a grace of God, out of which I can take this step. But I must also ask for this grace of God.