Good morning, happy Monday, and many blessings.
Today’s readings, Matthew 10:34-11:1, contains some of what are called the hard sayings of Jesus: choosing to follow him means some hard choices in life, some involving our closest relationships. In the depth of my heart I know this is true, and I look back at when I paid a high price to follow Jesus and his values, and at other times when I was not brave enough to do so. I pray for a generous and strong spirit.
Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. Finding and losing my life: can anything be more important for me than this? The experience of the pandemic makes this very clear. Yet I realize there are many levels of finding and losing one’s life. I ask for the grace to know how to lose my life for the sake of Jesus.
When we find Jesus we need to become prophets (or prophetess) . A ‘prophet’, in the Bible, is not principally someone who can foresee the future; rather a prophet is someone who is sent to proclaim God’s message to the people. Inevitably, this will sometimes lead to confrontation: the prophet is not sent simply to confirm people in the life-choices they have made.
Jesus himself warned his disciples that “if they have persecuted me, they will persecute you” – and he condemned the hostility that led people to kill the prophets in the past. Here he warns his disciples that if they give sincere witness to the way of life he is proposing, this could sometimes mean putting their life in danger. It could also mean setting family members against one another.
When Jesus appeared to Saul (later Paul) as he was rounding-up Christians, Jesus said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting”. But in the same way whenever we welcome a disciple and his message, Jesus can say, “Anyone who welcomes you, welcomes me”.
These hard words of Jesus can only be understood in the light of our life experience, the times we had to face the dramatic choices Jesus speaks of. We know there are moments when stark choices need to be made to ensure we can still call ourselves disciples of Jesus, moments when we wield the sword of division or separation.
Do I want to save my life or to lose it? Am I ready to lose it, or do I cling on for fear of losing it? This is perhaps the basic condition for discipleship, and no moralistic or perfect obedience to any law or system of rules can replace it. I ask insistently for the grace of real interior freedom and for courage to be true to myself and to my calling. I am clear that Jesus is calling me. Now what I need to be clear about is whether I am willing to take responsibility for this radical gospel. In this discipleship you have to lose your life in order to gain it.