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Wednesday – Thirty-first week – OT1
Readings: Rom 13:8-10; Lk 14:25-33.
1/ Reading I: RSV Romans 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
2/ Gospel: RSV Luke 14:25 Now great multitudes accompanied him; and he turned and said to them, 26 “If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, `This man began to build, and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an embassy and asks terms of peace. 33 So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
I. THEME: God’s love is more important than anything else.
When one first skims through today readings, one may hardly find a harmony for both Paul’s advice and Jesus’ requirements. While Paul reserves a very important place for loving others, Jesus demands people to hate their family and even themselves before they can become his disciples.
With some reflections, we shall see there isn’t a conflict in two teachings. Both Paul and Jesus reserve the absolute standing for God’s love. While Paul emphasizes the love for others, Jesus emphasizes God’s love over one’s love for himself and for his family.
1/ Reading I: Love is the fulfilling of the law.
1.1/ God’s love is more important than anything else: After arguing about the important role of faith over the law, Paul continued to argue about the important role of charity over the law. He advised the faithful, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery. You shall not kill. You shall not steal. You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.””
St. Thomas helped us to clarify Pauline teaching when he said that when we love someone, we want best things for that person. When one is urged by love, one can’t cause damage for others in anything; but to help them to achieve the best. St. Thomas went further by comparing the important role of love over the law. He said love is more positive because it controls the mind of a person so that he shall not cause harm for others, while the law is only negative because it only limits people’s two hands. For example, the law can prevent people to violate the sixth commandment; but it can’t stop people to violate the ninth commandment.
1.2/ Love is fulfilling of the law: And Paul made a conclusion, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”
Jesus also highlights the important role of love over the law as Paul and Thomas Aquinas when he corrected the scribes and the Pharisees that they pay too much attention to the purification of hands and the paying of tithe and forget about the greater things such as love and righteousness. He asks them to take a deep look into their soul so they can purify all dirty things which originate from there, such as: adultery, robbery, murder, greedy, wrong accusation and many other sins.
In short, all three persons, Jesus, Paul and Thomas Aquinas, recognized the important role of love over all things; once people have God’s love, the law is no longer needed. Love shall help people to exceed the limitation of the law to attain wonderful results which the law can never attain them.
What we need to pay attention here is that all three of them use the word love (agapê) only in Christian context. This is one of the three theological virtues which have their origin from God, were given to people through the sacrament of Baptism; but people need to develop them through prayer, frequently receiving sacraments and practicing them in their daily life.
2/ Gospel: Christ’s disciples must pay a dearly price to follow him.
According to Luke’s report, Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem. Many people were hoping that Jesus shall use his mighty power to fight against the Roman empire and to recover Israel’s kingdom, so they followed to support him. Jesus knew what they were thinking, he let them know what shall happen for him in Jerusalem and gave them three conditions for those who want to follow him.
2.1/ Three necessary conditions to follow Jesus: One can say that these three conditions cover all what people may possess.
(1) Must give up their relatives: Jesus said to them, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” The Greek’s verb is used here is “miséo” means to hate, to despise, not to concern with or to pay attention to. Matthews was more careful when using the verb than Luke, Jesus stated: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Mt 10:37). It is for sure that Jesus didn’t teach people to hate their relatives as hating their enemies, but also to love them as ourselves. Luke used to pay a special attention to love because he is a nurse and his duty is to lovely care for patients. Here, Luke probably understood Jesus’ meaning as in Matthews that Christ’s disciples must not value their relatives more than God and when they must choose between God and their relatives, they must choose God.
(2) Must give up their own life: As Christ sacrificed his body for human beings, Christ’s disciples were also demanded to sacrifice themselves for God and others.
(3) Must carry their cross: Jesus continued to say to them, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” The cross he mentioned here, not necessarily means the cross which Jesus was died on, but all other sufferings such as: despite, misunderstanding, persecution, etc. which a disciple must endure in preaching the Gospel.
2.2/ Two illustrated examples: To illustrate the necessary of the careful thinking before one decides to be his disciple, Jesus gave them two concrete examples.
(1) Building a towel: Money is the deciding factor for all building projects; people must have enough or extra money when the project is started. If a project started and money is run out, the building company shall stop the project. People shall look at the project and say, “This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.”
(2) Fighting the enemy: Equal force is the deciding factor in fighting. Before fighting, a military leader must send out a spy to observe his opponent’s forces to evaluate and to compare with his forces. If he thinks that he might have a chance of winning, he shall fight; if not, he must ask for help or make overtures of reconciliation.
Similarly, Jesus requires those who want to follow him to carefully think of his three conditions and to evaluate their power to see if they can meet them. If they can’t meet them, they shouldn’t follow him.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– God’s love is the most important element in Christian life. We must make an effort to understand God’s love for us and let this love increase to the maximum in our soul.
– We must carefully review three things which Jesus requires from us to see if we can meet them. Once we decided, we should follow him all the way to the end.