According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Man participates in the wisdom and goodness of the creator who gives mastery over his acts and the ability to govern himself with the view to the true and the good….” This means that to be a true disciple of Jesus requires the discernment of God’s will possible only through the Spirit of God; the transformation of personal relations in Christ; and the renunciation of possessions as the prerequisite for true discipleship. All the above is made possible through the wisdom of God.
The first reading reminds us that Christian Discipleship is a wisdom that comes down from heaven. It is not a man created Philosophy or Theology, but it is the gift of God’s wisdom to us. To be a disciple is to be wise with the wisdom of God. It is said that true wisdom comes to us when we realize how little we know about ourselves, about others, about God and the world around us. Wisdom is what is what will save our waywardness, our gullibility as regards matters of faith. It is not sold on the market but it is given to those who ask of it in faith. Thus “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach and it will be given him” (James 1:5).
In the second reading, we learn that we are all free before the Lord, no matter what the social conditions of our life are. For Paul, by virtue of the death of Christ, there is no one has the right to hold any body hostage. We are all free and no more slaves. However, Paul admonishes us when says “For we have been called to freedom brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence but through love serve one another (Galatians 5:13).” J.J. Rousseau, a French Philosopher says that “Man is born free but he is everywhere in chains…” We have become slaves to our evil desires. Like Paul entreating Philemon to take Onesimus back as a brother and no more a runaway slave. We need the wisdom of God to enjoy our freedom in Christ. . We are not our own person, but we belong entirely to him, and we exist to serve him.
The Gospel concerns the aspect of discipleship which we call renunciation. It is the cost of discipleship. Today, we are aware of how the cost of all things has gone up so much namely food, clothes, home furnishings and the like. But the cost of discipleship has remained the same. It never goes up. It always involves a complete giving of ourselves to Christ and his Word.
The words of today’s Gospel sound strong, perhaps too strong and very severe. They seem unrealistic and idealistic. They do not seem to be aimed at today’s world with its needs for compromise, adjustment, understanding, to mention but few especially in face of the New Global Ethic which is gradually relegating religion (Christianity) to the background making man the measure of all things. The words of the Gospel tell us that there is only one absolute in our lives: our relationship to Christ. Everything else is relative to this one absolute. Even the relationships which are dearest – our relationship to family and friends are subordinate to our relationship with Christ. For Pope John Paul II of Blessed Memory, “Christianity is not an opinion; it is not words but it is Christ.
We are told that for the sake of Christ, we are to hate everything else. This is a strong word. It shocks us. Some translations would like to tone it down to spare us the shock. It is not, of course, a command to hate- such command could not come from Christ who is himself the incarnate love of the father, and who warned us in the Sermon on the Mount that we would be liable to judgment even if we called one of our brothers a fool. But it is a command to put what is first, first and what is secondary, in a subordinate place. It is a command to love according to value, loving what is greatest with the greatest love and what is less with a lesser love.
Today’s Gospel also asks us to check up on ourselves to see how much our practice of Christianity costs us. We are not obviously thinking in financial terms. Rather we are asking to what extent the Gospel message shapes our lives. One critic of Christianity said: “the trouble of Christianity is that it has never been practiced.” Ghandi is also quoted as saying that l love Christ but l hate Christians. There are some truths in these sayings even though the statement as a whole is false. But we are asked if there is any real difference in our lives as Christians from what we find in the lives of those who are not professedly Christians. We have to confess in many cases that there is little difference. In fact, in many instances we find that non- Christians and non- Catholics are even kind, generous, self-sacrificing, than those who profess to live the Gospel of Christ. In the Gospel, the Christian is called to be light of the world, the leaven that makes the whole world rise. Often we find that he is darkness and death.
In sum, it is not easy to be completely Christian. To be a disciple is to be wise with the wisdom of God; discipleship is about renunciation; discipleship must cost us something precious. It means a total conversion- the type of conversion that takes place in the Eucharist when Bread is converted into the body of Christ and wine into his blood of Christ. Indeed, we must become what we celebrate. Let us begin this conversion by the practice of charity in our lives even when it costs.
Storey G. Williams (Editor), Days of the Lord, Herder and Herder, New York, 1965, Pp.66-67.
Homiletic & Pastoral Review, July 1971, Pp. 43-45.