The cost of discipleship and promises

Reading 2 today is the most beautiful letter of recommendation you could find anywhere. Saint Paul wrote a beautiful letter to the early Christian community. Recommending his personal friend, a slave became a friend. The man after his own heart, his child, a follower of Christ. Now, Paul at the end of his life vouched for this new Catholic, new Christian, new follower of Christ, to the community. What a beautiful way of making sure faith is received and passed on. Thanks to those disciples.

In my life as a priest, I have written probably hundreds of letters of recommendation. I’ll be honest with you, sometimes; it's easy to write because the one who asked for that letter, I knew very well. And a lot of the time, I have no idea, and it's difficult to even put my thoughts together. Do you ever write a letter of recommendation to someone that you struggle to even think about what to write about? Do you? Because this letter might change one's life, so it takes a considerable amount of energy, sitting down and really thinking about that person. What is so good about this person is that I could vouch for my credibility, with my life. Now I would like to ask you in light of this beautiful letter of Saint Paul to the early Christian community. Imagine you and I, now coming to God, the one who knows you and I so perfectly well, that nothing could be hidden. If we ask the good Lord “Can you please write me a letter of recommendation?". Imagine him writing that letter to the entire world, to every employer, every boss, and every organization in the world. Imagine that for a moment asking our Lord to write me a letter of recommendation. Tell them how good I am, and tell them too how much I need help. I would like to present that to you as an experimental thought. At the same time I would like to give you some, perhaps according to the gospel, something to really tackle the cost of discipleship.

In today’s gospel, our Lord asked us to really sit down and think about, think through our life, and do a deliberate calculation. Whether or not this is a good thing to go forward? Now let's take a look at what did Jesus actually ask you and me in order to be his disciples? Second, let's go through the promises that he made to those who actually follow him. First, what did our Lord actually say to those who want to follow him, want to be his disciples? Number one, He wants us to understand that it is he who chose us, not the other way around. Our good Lord has stepped forward toward you and I, he extended his invitation, and therefore, the call to discipleship, first and foremost, my dear brothers and sister, is a blessing, it's a gift. It's truly a gift. And that is the first realization that we all have to understand that our Lord reaches out to you and to me. The fact that we are here indicates that we are invited, embraced, and loved into this community, into this family, into this world, and that is an awesome gift.

The second thing: "come and follow me". Those early disciples like Peter Andrew and the rest, "come and follow me". The good Lord gives the direction not you and me. The good Lord leads our job to come, see, stay, and learn with him. We are his students, we are not his teacher. And the entire Lord clearly said to his disciples: "No, no, students could be greater than the master? No, none.

And third it's interesting our Lord lays out completely, transparent to those who follow him. If you put your hand on the plow and turn back, you are not worthy of HIM. He meant to say if you committed to me, I demand complete fidelity, complete fidelity. You cannot go around worshiping money, and then me at the same time; you cannot have two masters - mammon and God. Complete fidelity to Christ and his teachings, complete and absolute submission to his divine will. Oh my brothers and sisters, how hard is it? It's simply hard, extremely hard to renounce everything.

What did he ask? Repent and believe in the good news, in the gospel. Those who follow Jesus have to have a recollected mind. Meaning we got to be thinking about what we need to confess, what we need to get rid of, what we need to renounce. Saint Paul listed the whole and our Lord listed the whole list as well. Those who come from the outside do not defile us but those who come from the inside actually defile us. Theft, stealing, cheating, killing, you name it. Repent; humbly accept God's mercy by asking for his forgiveness.

Next, in today's gospel, our Lord repeatedly asked us to consider "unless you and I pick up our cross and follow him we do not really deserve to be his disciple". What does that mean? Listen to him, follow him, and accept him? It means that sometimes, we're going to suffer, it means that when we renounce our sins that attachment is going to cost us a lot of anxiety, a lot of pain, and disunity among our family. A great problem comes when we face a greater political force that suppresses our faith that wants to destroy our faith. Those moments of pain and suffering, do we continue to follow HIM or drop HIM along the way? Too hard, Lord, too difficult to believe in you. Too difficult to really say yes to life, too difficult to say no to sins, too hard to renounce my habits, therefore, I dropped you along the way; I cannot pick up the cross and follow you. This path is full of thorns and rocky soil. It's hard to travel. Not many people accompany me on the path either. Our Lord is asking us to pick up the cross, pain, and suffering that accompanies those who follow Jesus. Also, our Lord asks His disciple to bend down on their knees, and serve one another as our Lord has served his disciples in the last supper. You see, I'm the master and I did this to you. You should do it to one another. Lord asking us to humbly accept one another, humbly see each other not enemies but actually brothers and sisters in Christ. We may have struggles, problems, and bad things going on. But after all, underneath the image of God, the beautiful person God has created, there's something lovable, something beautiful that needs to be discovered. The Lord continues, "If you want to be my disciple, love one another, and love your enemies, pray for those who hate you”. Amazing isn't it? If I listen and continue to list, dear brothers and sisters, the requirements to be Jesus' disciple was so difficult to really follow. Who could do so? The disciple asked: how many of us could be saved, my good Lord? How many of us could fulfill the list? Not that many If we do it on our own strength, but if we do it with God's strength, then yes, we could. Now those are just a few things that we needed to think about our discipleship.

When we think about how God would write the letter of recommendation, how many of those things have we done, my brothers and sisters, how many of those things that we actually believe in. Do we believe that we have to go out and show our faith? Do we believe that we have to reconcile with one another? Do we believe that we have to love one another? Do we believe that we have to share our resources to build God's kingdom here on earth? The money that we drop in the basket here in the church is no longer a donation to God. God doesn't need your money or my money, he has it all. It’s an act of thanksgiving. It's an act of acknowledgement that we continue to work together to further God's kingdom, to take care of his house and his people. Here at this moment in history.

Now the second part, let's take a look at the promises. We already see the requirements, how about the promises made to those who follow Jesus. It is an amazing list as well. My dear brothers and sisters, listen to this list so that we have courage to embrace the call of discipleship. Those who believe in me shall live even if he dies, shall enjoy eternal life. Amazing isn't it? Our Lord is just not just guaranteed his life is going to be suffering and pain. No, he's saying our life is going to be awesome. In the next, this is just the beginning; this is just a preparation period. The enjoyment period is to be with God on high. That is the promise. If you listen to me, if you are my disciple, your joy will be complete. We are always longing for joy. Sometimes substitute it with something else in this life - go to the movies, watch a good play, even while committing sins because we think those things may actually create some joys in our heart. We are looking for joy. And our Lord says:" if you follow me, I'll give you joy ". He also says: if you follow me, if you renounce, give away family and everything that you got, I’ll multiply that by a hundred and overflow. amazing, he's saying if you give me your life, I’ll give you back 100 times; if you give up your habit, I’ll give you a thousand more; brothers and sisters, if you want to be generous, if you open your heart, you'll not only have you in it, I’m going to have you a thousand more people in it with you. If you want your heart to be big, expand it and make sure it is going to be big like mother Teresa, like John of the cross, like Abdullah, like the rest of the apostles, they were so concerned about what they get from Jesus and they forgot about the larger picture. But when they got it, my good Lord they brought thousands of people to Christ that house God multiplied.

And now the Lord also promised to you and to me that we're going to be his friends. We’re going to be his friends not a slave. Because a slave does not know the master is doing, but the friend knows exactly. Our Lord called his disciple friends. Friendship with God means being with him in the state of blessedness, the saints are called friends of God because they enjoy that state of being with God completely. So we're being called friends, we're actually being called friends in such a beautiful way that everything he has he shared with us. Friends with a mutual interest of heaven and not only that for those who follow Jesus, what else did he promise? We're going to have God as father. And all of us are brothers and sisters. The disciple asked how to pray and our Lord taught them: "our father who art in heaven". Our heavenly father, God, is no longer a distant entity, a being that we could not reach, but actually a personal God we could actually call upon, we could touch him, we actually see him, as we receive and see Jesus here at mass. we actually have a relationship with our heavenly father, he is not a punishing father but actually a good and merciful kind forgiving father. Brothers and sisters, if those things are not enough to incite us to embrace this discipleship, willingly weigh the cost. These are the requirements and these are the promises made.

So my dear brothers and sisters let me go back to Saint Paul's letter. He vows with his own life, that this man is worthy of reception. Let's think about the letter that God could write to you and to me. - For me, a letter of good standing, a letter of recommendation. Think about those things, think about beautiful challenges, think about the promises that God had made and make a determination. What should I do? Should I love my family more than God? Should I embrace a political agenda more than God's agenda? Should I just embrace my personal agenda? Or are we going to move forward with God's agenda? Should I relinquish my habits of sins, habit of gossip, habit of hurting people, or sinning personally? Should I follow Christ or not? Trust in HIM and receive the reward of eternal life. My brothers and sisters, that's the choice we have to make and that is a call to discipleship.


讀經 2 (費肋孟書 9-10, 12-17) 是聖保祿宗徒寫的一封推薦信,一封感人而美麗的推薦信。在信中他推薦了一位奴隸進入早期的基督徒團體。他說這位奴隸與他認識,有私交,有同樣的情懷,追隨了耶穌,是保祿宗徒傳福音所生的孩子。保祿宗徒在他生命的盡頭,將這位新的天主教徒、基督徒、基督的追隨者推薦給教友團體,用這美妙的方法來確保信仰的傳續與接納。我們感謝宗徒們的努力。


主在今天的福音中 (路加福音 14:25-33),要求我們檢討自己是否善度基督徒的生活?讓我們來看看在福音中耶穌對他的門徒要求是什麼?然後回顧一下對那些真心追隨祂的人所作的許諾。


第二,主向我們說 “來,跟隨我”。就像當初祂對伯多祿,安德肋說:“來,跟隨我”一樣。天主吿訴我們行動的方向,而不要我們自己找方向。主邀請我們到祂的身邊,留下來,觀察祂,學習祂。我們是學生,不是老師。主說:“徒弟能比師父大嗎?不,一個都沒有“。



今天的福音中,主要求我們 “誰若願意跟隨我,該棄絕自己,天天背着自己的十字架跟隨我”。這意味著什麼?聽祂,跟隨祂,接受祂,意味著有時會受苦。當我們放棄自我時,有種依戀會讓我們產生焦慮、痛苦甚至導致家庭分裂。尤其當我們面對強大的政治力量,企圖壓制及摧毀我們的信仰,會產生很大的問題。在痛苦中,我們是否繼續跟隨主還是放棄祂?主啊,相信祢真是太難了。對罪說 “不” 也是太難。我的一些習慣太難捨棄,所以,我把禰丟到路邊;我不能拿起十字架跟隨祢。這條路充滿了荊棘和石塊,難以前行,在路上陪伴的人也不多,又要背著十字架、接受痛苦和苦難。主也要求我們跪下,互相服務,就像主在最後晚餐中為門徒服務一樣。主的行為告訴我們,“我是主人,我對門徒做了這件事。你們也該這樣彼此服務”。主要求我們謙卑地接受彼此,眼中看到的不是敵人,而是主內的兄弟姐妹。我們會遇到困難、問題和考驗,但畢竟我們是以天主的形象而造,有天主的美善,有愛的元素,也有些需要被發現的美善。主繼續說:“如果你想成為我的門徒,你應愛你的近人,愛你們的仇人,當為迫害你們的人祈禱”。這是不是很神奇?成為耶穌門徒的條件真的很難。門徒問:主,有多少人可以得救,達成這個標準?答案是:如果我們憑自己的力量,沒有幾個人會得救,但如果我們信靠天主的幫助,得救是可能的。要成為一個耶穌的門徒這是我們必需要考慮幾個條件。



耶穌應許我們成為祂的朋友,我們就再也不是奴隸了。奴隸不知道主的旨意,但朋友知道主的旨意。與天主交友意味著與天主同處於幸福的狀態。聖人被稱為天主的朋友是因為他們完全地分享了與天主同在的圓滿。所以我們被稱為朋友是如此的美好,因為天主的朋友與天主分享祂所擁有的一切,不僅是那些跟隨耶穌的人,也包括了所有對天堂有渴望的人。耶穌還應許了什麼呢?祂說我們要以天主為父,所有基督徒都是主內的兄弟姐妹。門徒問耶穌如何祈禱,耶穌教導他們以 “我們的天父” 開始。天主不再遙遠,而是一個我們能呼喚,可以看到,並且觸摸的真實天主。我們在彌撒時可以領受耶穌。天父再也不是一個嚴厲的父親,而是一個善良、仁慈、寬容的父親。兄弟姊妹們,如果這些許諾還不足以讓我們來接受成為門徒的挑戰,那麼就請你再衡量一下作為門徒的條件和許諾了。

讓我回到聖保祿這封推薦信。保祿用自己的生命來推薦這一位奴隸是值得加入基督信仰的團體,成為耶穌的兄弟姐妹。再讓我們想想天主為我們寫的推薦信。 希望主能為我們寫一封信,來肯定我是一位好的基督徒,推薦我進入基督的團體成為耶穌的兄弟姐妹。讓我們看這個門徒的挑戰和天主的許諾,下個決心。到底我該怎麼辦呢?愛我的家人勝過天主嗎?接受世俗而拒絕天主嗎?向慾望屈服還是按照天主的指示前進呢?繼續犯罪、說閒話、傷害人還是跟隨基督,信靠祂來獲得永生的獎賞?兄弟姐妹們,我們必須做出選擇來面對成為門徒的條件與許諾。