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Calculate! Start in! Never Give Up!

Rev. Paul V. Redmond
Professor Emeritus
Mount St. Mary's University

(9-5-10) Hopefully you were at least mildly upset---perhaps even shocked at the words of Jesus in the opening parts of todayís gospel selection: "If anyone comes to me without hating his family and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple." We heard correctly, but we need to examine these words. Is Jesus really encouraging us to hate those whom we consider closer to us than life itself?

When I was puzzled by these words of Jesus, I had to do some exploring. Hereís the result. Jesus is using a Hebrew way of expressing preference that is not to be taken literally. In his time to express that you prefer one person or thing to another person or thing, you used the words "love" and "hate". For example, if I prefer being with Rebecca rather than rather than being with Lisa, I could say that I "love" the one, and "hate" the other. To our ears it sounds wild, but the major differences between some expressions that are familiar to us were not used in the same way at the time of Jesus. We are not literalists in our Bible reading.

In Jesusí day people got their identity not as individuals, but as members of a family or religious group. Jesus never renounces his family. His mother Mary is his chief disciple. He encourages his disciple then, and you and me, his disciples today, to embrace as kin those who are not blood relatives as if they were blood relatives. As disciples of Jesus do you and I widen the horizons of our love and concern to move beyond our own kin?

When Jesus claims that we cannot be his disciples unless we renounce all our possessions, we do not take him literally. Jesus rather is telling you and me not to allow anything at all to block us from following him; to move beyond whatever it might be that would stand in the way of our accepting his love for us and living that love in what we do. He does claim, however, that the only truly useful thing to do with wealth is to give alms to the poor that we may have treasure in heaven (Lk 18:22)

It is not the meek and mild Jesus, but the "dangerous Jesus" who invites us to live as his disciples. He encourages us to commit ourselves to him with open eyes and level heads. Like the "would-be-tower-builder" in Lukeís gospel, Jesus invites us to "sit down and calculate the outlay." Like the king about to do battle, Jesus encourages us to think deeply on the struggle that faces us. We dare not be naVve lovers of this "dangerous Jesus" as we ask for the grace to calculate the costs, as best we can, and surrender to his love for us. And, through him, to surrender to his Fatherís love for us. God never gives up in his loveóhis hospitality-- for you and every human.

Friends, the following petitions may encourage us to renew our commitment to this "dangerous Jesus." After I say the word "anyway" in each of these petitions, please speak outó , shout out the words "never give up". After I say the word "anyway" in each of these petitions, please speak out - shout out the words "never give up".

The better you become at being a disciple of Jesus, the more difficult and challenging it will be. Be a disciple anyway: "Never give up."

The people you may be called to serve may be unlikable, ungrateful and unimpressed by your dedication. Love and serve them anyway: "Never give up".

If you do good, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Do good anyway: "Never give up".

The good you do for Christ will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. "Never give up".

Honesty, humility and simplicity make you vulnerable Be honest, humble, and simple anyway. "Never give up".

What you spend years building may seem insignificant in the eyes of other people.. Build anyway. "Never give up".

People really need help, but may attack you if you help them. Help them anyway. "Never give up".

Give the world the best you have and you may get kicked in the. . . . teeth. Help them anyway. "Never give up".

We pray that you and I may surrender to the staggering hospitality that Jesus constantly offers us and reach out in hospitality to him---as he comes to us in surprising disguises---at home, at work, no matter where or when, anyway. "Never give up"

Read other homilies by Father Paul