23 Sunday C - Demands of Discipleship


Jesus leads
Michel de Verteuil 
General Textual comments
 The passage is in three movements:
– verse 25: the framework of the passage;
– verses 26, 27 and 33: the challenge to radical discipleship; and
– verses 28 to 32: the practical approach to discipleship.
Discipleship of Jesus takes many forms and we interpret this passage in the light of the particular form of discipleship to which we have committed ourselves – marriage, parenting, friendship, career, religious life or priesthood. We think of other commitments we and others make: to social change for example – bringing about reconciliation between ethnic groups or religions, or reforming economic, educational or political systems, locally or internationally.
discipleship
Jesus’ language is startling at a first reading, harsh even, for example its stress on “hating” and the need to give up “all one’s possessions”. Our meditation must feel the passion of Jesus as well as uplift us. The secret is to let the passage speak to our experiences of grace, of Jesus alive in the world today, and in each of us too, to the extent that we are his presence for others. It will also be a call to conversion of course, because we are often not like him.
For example, the passage invites us to celebrate those people who when we were embarking on a career, joining a political movement, getting married, came straight with us. They told us: don’t enter into it unless you feel willing and able for the sacrifices involved. Their words seemed harsh at the time and in any case we were so committed that we didn’t pay them much heed. Now we are deeply grateful to them. They were Jesus at work in our lives.
Note that Jesus “turned and spoke to them”. He speaks from personal experience. The choices he is asking from his followers he has made himself – and is glad he did.
Many leaders today (even in the Church) are afraid of losing their followers, the “great crowds who accompany them” so rather than challenge them, they feed them with empty slogans which pander to their worst instincts, for example their feelings of superiority to others. Or else they make demands on others that they do not live up to themselves. We celebrate leaders like Jesus.
We can shift the focus of our meditation from the person of Jesus to the process of decision making or coming to maturity which he calls us to. We all experience turning points in our lives, when in response to an inner call, we make choices which bring us to a new level of maturity. These moments of grace always involve finding our true identity by renouncing attachments – to people, projects, ideas, institutions. We decide to “carry our own cross,” to discover our own destiny, the greatness to which we have been called.
So long as we derive our identity from others, even those closest to us, we remain immature.
Modern psychology has reinforced this teaching of Jesus:
“Before individuality can come there must be psychological differentiation. The unconscious identification with others must be broken, and each one must recognize his or her uniqueness.” … John A. Sanford, Jungian analyst and author
The journey to maturity is on-going. As children, we find our points of reference in parents and possessions. As we get older we naturally transfer our dependence to other intimate relationships,
from mother and father, brothers and sisters,
to friends, teachers, spouse, children,
maybe work place, community, church, institution – a “corporate self-image.”
All the time we remain dependent on someone or something for our identity. The moment of maturity comes when we take the risk of stepping out into the unknown – we “hate our own life too.” Up to then we are not mature, “cannot be disciples”.
Maturity brings freedom in our relationships,
freedom from what others think of us, and
freedom to let others discover who they are, apart from us.
Remaining faithful to our commitments requires many renunciations.
– familiar forms of prayer;
– childhood images of God;
– rules and regulations;
– identity that comes from belonging to a group, a movement, an   institution, a political party;
– comforting passages in the scriptures;
– inward-looking cozy communities;
these can all be “possessions” and eventually we realize that we must “give them up”.
Malala-YousafzaiWe celebrate heroes we have known who found the courage to “give up” some deep-seated “possessions,” taboos and silences they once clung to out of fear or a false sense of loyalty:
– battered women give up their sense of shame and share their stories with others;
– victims of rape, incest, or child abuse denounce their abusers;
– parents seek help for crippled, deformed or retarded children they had been hiding in their homes;
– citizens take the risk of going against their governments’ oppressive policies
– church members speak out against injustice in their communities
– an Israeli speaks up for Palestinians, a Northern Ireland Catholic for Protestants,
– a Sicilian against the mafia.
The two parables in verses 28-30 and 31-32 are very touching, but we must interpret them according to the spirituality of Jesus. They must not make us afraid to take risks for example, or weigh us down with guilt at our failures. Situate the parables in the context of Jesus “turning around” and sharing his experience with compassion, remembering his temptations in the wilderness.
We must feel the pathos of the “onlookers all starting to make fun of the man.” It is not condemning but saying, “I so want to spare you that”. But there is also the hint that we cannot escape such mocking. We remember the many references to “those who scoff” in the psalms, and the chief priests mocking Jesus on Calvary because he “started to build and was unable to finish”.
The parable of the king reminds us of moments when we feel discouraged and unable to continue in our commitments. The odds seem too great, we become aware that we have twenty thousand men against us whereas we only have ten thousand, and so we are tempted to “send envoys to sue for peace” – like Jesus at Gethsemane. But God sends us some Jesus – or an angel – who reminds us that the commitment we made really requires that we “give up all our possessions”
The journey to discipleship is truly a wonderful adventure. We ask God to continue sending Jesus to lead us and all humanity along the way.
 Scriptural prayer reflection
Lord, we remember with gratitude those people who,
as we were walking behind them,
turned and spoke words that seemed harsh at the time, telling us
– to break ties;
– to step out in faith;
– to harden our hearts;
– not to be afraid to cause pain to the people we love.
By their words and example, they gave us a new sense of freedom,
opened within us new sources of creativity,
helped us to be true to our deeper selves.
“We cannot discover new oceans unless we dare to lose sight of the shore.”
letting goLord, to discover new oceans, our young people must often
let go of father, mother, brothers and sisters,
yes and their own image of themselves too.
We thank you for great parents and teachers
who when their children want to continue accompanying them,
turn and speak to them as Jesus did,
telling them that they must not be afraid to hurt those who are dear to them,
but must take up their own crosses so that they can be truly his disciples.
Lord, we pray for young people.
So often those they accompany on their way lead them in wrong directions;
they are subjected to pressure from peer groups, consumerism, materialism, fads and fashions.
Jesus key to freedomSend them leaders like Jesus who, as they walk ahead of them,
will turn and challenge them
– to become the great people you want them to be,
– to harden their hearts so that they can follow their own path,
– not to be afraid to give up their feelings of security and assume their responsibilities.
Lord, as we look back on our lives we see projects that we started,
for which we laid a foundation,
and which, later, we found ourselves unable to finish:
– a marriage broke up;
– we dropped out of school or college;
– we left the religious life or the priesthood;
– gave up a political commitment that was too demanding;
– stopped meditating.
We hear voices, some of them within our own hearts, making fun of us,
saying, “Here are people who started to build and were unable to finish”;
and indeed we had not sat down and worked out the cost
to see if we had the resources to complete what we had begun.
But we know that you are there with us, and that the need to achieve is one
of the possessions you want us to give up.
Lord, we think today of those who are discouraged:
– parents bringing up their children;
– employers trying to work for good industrial relations;
– leaders challenging a church community to become involved in the secular world.
They feel like a king who is marching out with ten thousand followers and having
to stand up to an opponent who is advancing against him with twenty thousand;
they are inclined to sue for peace even though their opponents are still a long way off.
Send them Jesus to remind them
that unless they are willing to give up the desire for quick results,
and carry the cross of failure, they cannot be his disciples.
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jesus- calls
Thomas O’Loughlin,Introduction to the Celebration
We have gathered here because we are disciples of the Lord Jesus: we have chosen his way as our way. Today he reminds us that this is no easy choice for his way led to the cross. He reminds us: ‘Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.’ Discipleship embraces every aspect of our lives. Discipleship means that we have to plan for the best way to live our lives in the light of his truth. Yet, we all fall short of that way, we follow other paths, we avoid the cross, we think of the immediate rather than the goal of life. So as we gather for this meal of discipleship, let us renew our commitment to the way of the Lord and ask pardon for our deviations from it.
Gospel Notes
This section is found only in Luke (Mt 10:37-8 has a parallel only of vv 26-7) and brings the cost of discipleship before us in a stark way that seems at odds with the notion of ‘the gentle Luke’. However, this section repeats what Luke has already written at 9:23-27, 57-62.
That one can embark on discipleship and yet fail is brought out by three images: the foolish builder, the unwise king, and the salt that has lost its taste (these last two verses have been omitted in the lectionary and this has given the text a well-focused and rhetorically more satisfying ending; these final verses of ch 14 are, in any case, almost certainly an interpolation at that point) all illustrate that it is easy to take up a life-demanding task but it requires wisdom / fortitude! dedication to complete it.
Homily Notes
1. We live in a world of ‘communication’: phones, faxes, emaiI,  facebook, text-messages,  radio, television, internet … Never” has there been so many ways to ‘communicate’ or so many messages travelling around. Everywhere there is someone who is trying to plant an idea in your eye or ear. ”
2. However, how many of these messages are actually direct and unmediated human speech? Information comes through’ media, an actual human voice communicating is rare: face to face seems to be for chatting. Indeed, apart form  boardroom style meetings and classrooms, there is almost nothing that is communicated without first being either typed or committed to an electrically driven machine. Now consider the homily: it is the only time in common experience when people are spoken to directly as a group. Just ask peo­ple when was the last time they went somewhere and actually listened to a speech? Politicians may speak of going on the stump or the hustings, but what they actually do is go before a specially chosen audience and then deliver sound-bites for the TV news and photo opportunities.
3. So when you actually get up and preach you are engaging in what is now a very rare form of activity in the developed world. It is personal, direct, and bare of defences, images, and games. From this two things flow:
First, we should remind our congregations just how rare it is for something to be set out without the possibility for spin and razzmatazz that modern media allow. Yes, it may not be slick, but there are no hiding places when all you have is a voice and a message.
Jesus Preaching

Second, this direct human communication is a rare event today, so capitalise on it and do not block it. We block it when a homily becomes a written message delivered orally: it should be the well-thought out reflections given ‘in living voice’ (viva voce) with the anxiety and sharpness which only ex tempore speaking possesses.
3.Equally, do not block it by standing behind a psychological security curtain made up of an ambo or lectern: there should be no physical object be­tween you and those you address. Of course, many argue that this is beyond their abilities – if that is the case then preaching is probably not your vocation and you should ask why you are attempting it: there is probably someone in your community who does have this calling and you should be empowering them rather than seeking to do it yourself.
4. But few cannot preach without notes or lectern, it is simply a matter of practice. So here is a simple formula.
5. Point out to your audience that you are speaking directly to them without the benefits of all the gimmicks and training of those who try to get their money by selling them things or their support by persuading them of ideas with all the skills of the ‘ communications industry’.
Then ask them what they think about what has just been read: that loyalty to the Christ is supposed to be paramount in their lives and that they must work with deliberation at being disciples in the same way they set about other major tasks in life.
Give a moment – around 30 seconds – to let the question settle in.
Then ask: how many of us believe this is the truth?
Give another moment to let this question settle.
Then conclude by pointing out that if you believe then you have to draw conclusions for how you live your life.
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Sean Goan
Gospel Notes
This is one those gospel passages that makes us stop in our tracks. The idea of hating anybody is far removed from the message of Jesus, so how come today he tells us that we cannot be his followers if we do not first hate our parents and other family members?
It might be helpful to remember that in the ancient world hyperbole or exaggerated speech was an accepted way of making a point and that clearly Jesus is using hyperbole when he says this. Still it seems like a counter productive way to present your case. The parables that follow this hard saying help to explain exactly what Jesus meant. He wants everyone to know that being his follower cannot be viewed as some kind of optional extra and so, before we decide for him, we should sit down and think about what it entails and then ask ourselves, ‘Am I prepared to commit myself to that extent?’
Reflection
forgive meOur following of Christ can easily become an unreflective adherence to a faith into which we were born. We may continue going to Mass merely out of habit or even fear. However, today it is as though Jesus turns around to us and says: ‘This is not for the fainthearted. Following me is not about having things easy with God on your side. It is all about forgetting yourself and that, my friend, is a hard road.’ From time to time we need to be shocked out of our complacency and today’s invitation to make our own the wisdom of Jesus aims to do just that.
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4. Donal Neary S.J.
Gospel reflections
Giving up possessions is a huge demand of Jesus, It can be misunderstood and cause grief. What Jesus means is that we identify what it is in us that may block us being his disciples. Wealth may provide comfort status in society or the Church/ security, or whatever centres our concerns/ and whatever keeps us from acting justly with and for others.
Created in the likeness of God/ we are created good. In each of us is the desire to nourish what is good and best in us. We wish to do the same for our children/ our pupils or anyone in our care.
We nourish the good in ourselves by prayer, community by good deeds and an honourable way of life, We watch the example of Jesus and listen to how he teaches us in his stories. Today he asks us to know ourselves, just like the man building a tower plans what he has and what he can do.
Goodness like beauty is a gift of God
Goodness like beauty is a gift of God
Our goodness in life is a gift from God. We find goodness also in each other. Good people make good people better! Saints we like show us a way to God and inspire us, and even help us. The gospel is full of people trying to do their best and learning with fresh starts and after their mistakes how to follow Jesus.
Goodness is vulnerable. We can try our best and fail. We make promises that don’t last despite our best efforts. In the eyes of God goodness is in what we do and in what we try to do. God sees the goodness of the heart.
Lord give us a desire for the good in our lives
and help us live by your good gospel.
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From The Connections:
 
THE WORD:
Today’s Gospel is the beginning of a treatise, unique to Luke’s Gospel, on the nature and demands of discipleship.
Jesus’ sobering words in today’s Gospel are meant to make us fully aware of the cost of discipleship before we embrace something we are not prepared for.  The gift of grace comes at the price of the same cross awaiting Jesus in Jerusalem.
Some translations of today’s Gospel ascribe rather harsh words to Jesus: in some texts, Jesus speaks of “turning one’s back” on family; in other translations, the verb “hate” is used.  A more precise translation of the idiom here is whoever prefers the love of family or self to Christ cannot be his follower.
The images of the unfinished tower and the king poorly prepared for battle illustrate the frustration and ultimate failure of the disciple who does not give himself/herself totally to the Gospel.  When a follower of Jesus begins to hold anything back in imitating Christ, discipleship becomes a charade.

 HOMILY NOTES:
Jesus calls us to seek reconciliation rather than dominance, to love and forgive without limit or condition, to give totally and completely regardless of the cost or sacrifice.  Such is the cross Jesus asks us to take up.
As the tower builder and the king preparing for war discover, our days are limited – too limited to squander on obsessing about things at the expense of our relationships with family and friends.  Jesus challenges us to live every moment of our lives as a time for preparation and "planning" for much greater and lasting things than this world of ours offers.
Often we refuse to “let go” of things that are making our lives so much less than we want them to be.  The gifts of God can only be grasped with the open hands of humility and prayer; the grasping hands of materialism and self-centeredness condemn us to a life of emptiness.
We tend to think of the crosses we bear as disorders, complications, disappointments – even people! – we are forced to endure.  But, in reality, God lays upon our shoulders crosses – talents, abilities, skills, gifts – that can be sources of hope, of joy, of discovery, of life, of resurrection — for ourselves and others.  Christ calls those who would be his disciples to imitate his spirit of humble generosity and compassion by picking up those crosses for the sake of others who stumbling under heavier crosses than ours.  

 
Cross walk
It may begin with a phone call in the middle of the night: a child has been in an accident, a parent has suddenly taken ill.
Or it may take the form of a lesson plan you struggle to lead your students through — kids who are for more interested in video games than subject/verb agreement, algebraic equations, or the Gospel of Luke.
It may be trying to keep peace in the family despite a disagreeable relative or struggling to keep the project going while dealing with a clueless boss or an incompetent team member.
It can come as ridicule or addiction.  It is often formed by the intersecting beams of despair and abandonment, of exhaustion and anger.
It may be the money you have — or the money you don’t have.  It may be the passion you have for a cause or the compassion you feel for the victims.
The cross — those struggles and challenges we can’t avoid, those people and situations we try to sidestep, the hard reality that forces us to delay our hopes and abandon our dreams.
But the cross is not necessarily a death sentence or an instrument of torture.  In the right hands, the cross can be a means of healing, an instrument for transformation, a vehicle for resurrection.  It begins with realizing that another set of hands carries that cross with us, that another shoulder bears the load with us.
Christ’s.

To follow Jesus of Nazareth requires us to take up the cross.  We never know precisely when or how the cross falls to us: deep darkness of mind or heart, aching and persistent loneliness, foreclosure of a future, immeasurable loss, diminishment, breakdowns in society, the burden of speaking the truth.  But when the cross presents itself, we must pick it up and follow Jesus.  As we walk, the wide road leads to a narrow way; ruts and obstacles jolt us on the journey.  Jesus is just ahead of us, but we see him through a glass darkly.  Not much is clear.  Faith and love, hope and prayer are the meat and bread and drink that sustain us, along with the example of the saints who have walked this way before us — and who walk with us now.  [From an essay by M. Shawn Copeland in America, January 26, 2007.]  

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Fr, Jude Botelho:
 

We sometimes wonder why we did a particular action or what made us say things we later regretted. There are also times we question the wisdom of God when we can't figure out some happenings in our lives. In life everything has a price tag, nothing is free. It is not easy to make wise decisions, we need God's help. What price have we paid for being a disciple? Have we pondered over it? Have a discerning weekend contemplating the cost of faith! Fr. Jude

Today's first reading from the Book of Wisdom reflects that it is hardly surprising that we have trouble figuring out the intentions of God when we have so much difficulty figuring out each other. There are times when we can't even understand those close to us; there are times we can't even figure out our own intentions, so how can we understand God and his ways? "Even though God has revealed himself through the Holy Spirit we cannot understand the mystery of God. We still have much to figure out.

Nearness and distance
Seamus Heaney, an Irish poet has reflected on his relationship with his father, a quiet man who had reason to believe that language was a kind of betrayal. In his writing Heaney tries to figure out his father whose inwardness and reserve are a constant challenge to a son who wants to fathom him and get close to him. The son starts following in his father's footsteps but he later discovers that their skills are different: the son's new produce is poems not potatoes. There doesn't appear to be much common ground there; but even though their skills divide them, their roots keep them attached. Perhaps it is true to say that no matter how close people may be, everyone has a lot of figuring to do! - Much of our lives involve figuring out what is within our reach and what we can achieve in life.
Denis McBride in 'Seasons of the Heart'

In Luke's Gospel Jesus speaks of the cost of discipleship and dedication needed to follow Him. Jesus presented two parables. He compared the Christian life to a building project and to warfare. Jesus pointed out that before someone wants to build a tower, he sits down and calculates the cost. If he does not have the resources to finish the tower, in all wisdom, he does not begin the project. Otherwise the project will end before it is completed and he will look foolish. So it is with disciples! In the second parable Jesus points to a king going to battle against an enemy far superior to him, who must calculate wisely the consequences. He must carefully consider his chances of winning. If the risk is too high, he must surrender unconditionally or else all will be lost. Jesus points out that so it is with Christian discipleship. We have to make wise choices. We cannot serve two masters. We have to be totally dedicated or else we will fall by the wayside.
The choices we make are absolute, we cannot be lukewarm or half hearted. Jesus uses strong language to highlight the cost of discipleship: "If a man comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife, children, brothers and sisters, yes, his own life too, he cannot be my disciple." A true disciple must be ready to forsake all to follow Jesus, he has to commit himself to a life of self-renunciation. True wisdom alone can guide us to this detachment from all to be attached to God alone. This is not accomplished by will power but by God-power, the power of the Holy Spirit.

Hating father and mother
Thomas Moore was Lord Chancellor when Henry VIII was king of England. He was a successful lawyer, a great linguist and a renowned spiritual and political writer. When he refused to take an oath in the 'Act of Succession', which recognized the offspring of Henry and his second wife Anne Boleyn, as the heir to the throne, declaring Henry's first marriage with Catherine as null and void, and repudiating the Pope, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London in the year 1534. His family implored him -for his sake and theirs- to take the oath; his beloved daughter Margaret took the oath thinking that this would induce her father to take the oath, but he refused. He spent fifteen lonely months in the prison -in poor health, isolated from other? prisoners, deprived of his beloved books; even paper and pen were not given to him. He was convicted of treason and sentenced to death. On July 1535, he was beheaded proclaiming that he was, "the king's good servant but
God's first." St. Thomas Moore loved God more than his wife, his children, nay, even his life itself.
John Rose in 'John's Sunday Homilies'

Ready to pay the price?
An English lady traveling in Germany left a valuable fur coat in charge of a German woman in the carriage. When she returned the German was wearing the coat and said it belonged to her. The guard tried in vain to find out to which of the two it belonged and finally sent her to the consul. The consul asked to examine the coat, and brought it back a few moments later saying, "This is a very serious affair; who so ever the coat belongs to has been smuggling cocaine. Here are the two packets I found in the coat."? The German woman excused herself and bowed out of the room saying: "Just my little joke." The English woman said: "I can't understand how they could have got there." The Consul replied: "Don't worry, it is only salt, that I put to find out whose coat it really was."
John Arbuthnot in 'More Quotes and Anecdotes

Pay nothing ?you get nothing!
A man came to buy a saddle for his horse. He saw a fine piece and asked, "How much?" "Five hundred rupees", the shop owner replied. "But that is too much," the man replied. "As it is the saddle is overly decorated. Remove some of the decoration and cut down the price." "All right" the shop owner said and took away some of the decoration. "Now it will be Rs. 400." "Rs. 400? Even that is too much. There is still some decoration you can remove." And so it went on till the price was brought down to Rs. 250. Even so the customer found the price too much. At last the shop owner said, "All right, sir. The saddle will cost you nothing." The buyer asked excitedly, "Nothing? Wonderful! What do I get? The shop owner told him. "Nothing." - We get according to our willingness to pay. This holds good in the spiritual realm too.
G. Francis Xavier in ''Inspiring Stories'

Keeper of the flame
Sometime ago the Los Angeles Times carried a moving story by reporter Dave Smith. It was about a modern Christian who, put God First in his life, other People second, and himself third. His name is Charlie DeLeo. After returning from Vietnam, He got a job as maintenance man at the Statue of Liberty. Charlie told the reporter that part of his job is to take care of the torch in the statue's hand and the crown on the statue's head. He has to make sure that the sodium vapour lights are always working and that the 200 glass windows in the torch and the crown are always clean. Pointing to the torch, Charlie said proudly, "That's my chapel. I dedicated it to the Lord, and I go up there and meditate on my breaks." But Charlie does other things for the Lord, as well. He received a commendation from the Red Cross after donating his 65th pint of blood. And since hearing of the work of Mother Teresa in India, he has given over $12,000 to her and to people like her.
Charlie told the Los Angeles Times reporter: "I don't socialize much; don't have enough money to get married. I don't keep any of my money. After I got my job, I sponsored six orphans through those children's organizations." Charlie ended by telling the reporter that he calls himself the "Keeper of the Flame" of the Statue of Liberty. Later a park guide told the reporter: "Everybody knows Charlie is special. When he first gave himself that title, people smiled. But we all take it seriously now. To us, he's exactly what he says: 'Keeper of the Flame."
Mark Link in 'Sunday Homilies'

The first reading from the book of Sirach is a lesson on humility. While pride is the deadliest of the seven deadly sins, because it is founded on falsehood which destroys ourselves and those around us, humility is perhaps the most characteristic of Christian virtues. The humble person finds favour with God not because that favour is a reward for humility, but because humility, like faith, means abandoning self-assertion, all trust in oneself, and allowing God to act where we can do nothing.

Humility is Truth
William Carey, the great missionary of India, was a very humble man despite his great linguistic skills and botanical achievements. He had translated the Bible into several Indian languages. The intellectuals and men of high positions in Calcutta recognized him. On one occasion the Governor General of India invited him to a party. As they sat around the table, one of the invitees asked another whether this was the Carey who was once a shoemaker. Carey overheard this comment and turned to the person and said, in all humility, “No, Sir, I was only a cobbler.”
John Rose in ’John’s Sunday Homilies’

In today’s Gospel Jesus is at a meal in the house of one of the leading Pharisees. He notices the undignified scramble for the places of honour and is moved to comment on what he sees through a parable. The parable looks like a bit of prudential advice on how to behave at a dinner party so as to avoid embarrassment.  But since it is a parable one need not take it at face value, as a piece of worldly wisdom or even as a lesson in humility. It deals rather with an aspect of one’s relationship with God. God in the person of Jesus Christ is inviting all peoples to the messianic feast. The only way to respond to the invitation is to renounce any claim or merit of one’s own. The Pharisees expected the best seats in the banquet for keeping the Torah, but like the outcaste, they have to learn that salvation is an unmerited gift –freely given and humbly to be accepted. Our acceptance at the heavenly banquet will depend not on our merit or good deeds but on our acceptance of others now. Humility in a Christian sense is not a purely passive virtue; like faith, to which it is closely akin, it is highly active.

Humility Speaks in Silence!
For a lady traveller it was a pleasant journey by train from New York to Philadelphia as there was only one more passenger besides her. Her co-passenger was rather a heavy-set man. But her joy of comfort was disturbed when the man lit a cigar and started smoking. The lady deliberately coughed and showed an unpleasant face. Nothing worked. He continued to smoke. Then she blurted out, “You might be a foreigner. But don’t you know that there is a smoking car ahead. Smoking is prohibited here. The man quietly threw his cigar out of the window and maintained his equanimity. When the conductor came to examine the tickets the lady passenger realized with horror that her co-passenger was the famous General Ulysses Grant. She had boarded his private car by mistake. As the lady made a hasty exit the General did not even look at her so as not to embarrass her. He turned his head and smiled only after the lady was out of sight. –Great humility is displayed by stronger men. Humility comes from strength.
G. Francis Xavier in “Inspiring Stories”

Learning from the Great
Dr. Richard Evans was a psychologist at the University of Houston who had developed an interesting series of films. They consisted of interviews Evans did with some great leaders in the fields of psychology and psychiatry –people like Carl Jung, Eric Fromm Erik Erikson, Carl Rogers, B.F. Skinner and Jean Piaget. Surprisingly, the major thing Evans learned from these great figures was the need for humility: What these great thinkers profess to know and their assessment of it is rather humble. Some people tend to oversell what psychology and psychiatry can do to help people solve their problems. Not so with the really great personages in these fields. The really important people have a modest view of what they have contributed, much less what the field had contributed in general. –Humility is the mark of all truly great men. A healthy sense of humour is closer to humility than self-depreciation.  Pope John XXIII once remarked: “Anybody can become pope; the proof of this is that I have become pope.”
Albert Cylwicki in ‘His Word Resounds’

Inflated Ego
Some time ago in Florida, the St Petersburg Times carried an interesting story about Don Shula, the coach of the Miami Dolphins, vacationing with his family in a small town in northern Maine. One afternoon it was raining and so Shula, his wife and his five children decided to attend a matinee movie in the town’s only theatre. When they arrived the house lights were still on in the theatre, where there were only six other people present. When Shula and his family walked in, all six people stood up and applauded. He waved and smiled. As Shula sat down he turned to his wife and said, “We’re thousands of miles from Miami and they are giving me a standing ovation. They must get us on television all the way up here. Then a man came to shake Don Shula’s hand. Shula beamed and said, “How did you recognize me?” The man replied, “Mister, I don’t know who you are. All I know is just before you walked in the theatre manager told us that unless four more people turned up we wouldn’t have a movie today.”
Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’

Self-Effacing Humility
One type of humility is self-effacement – the habit of doing good deeds, or indeed just daily work, secretly and anonymously, without expecting thanks. A good example of that is a teacher, who in preparation for Thanksgiving Day asked her class of first graders to draw a picture of something they were thankful for. She thought of how little these children from their poor neighbourhood had. She imagined that most of them would draw pictures of turkeys or tables of food. But the teacher was taken aback with the picture little Douglas handed in -a childishly drawn hand. The teacher showed it to the class to decide whose hand it was. “I think it must be the hand of God that brings us food,” said one child. “A farmer,” said another, “because he grows the turkeys.” When the others were at work, the teacher bent over Douglas’ desk and asked whose hand it was. “It is your hand, teacher,” he mumbled. It was only then that she recalled that frequently at recess she had taken Douglas, a scrubby forlorn child by the hand. She often did that with the children; it had obviously meant a lot to Douglas. For herself, she was grateful for the chance, in whatever small way, to give self-effacingly to others.
Harold Buetow in ‘God Still Speaks: Listen!’

Truly Humble
An arrogant American musician once visited the house of the great composer Beethoven, sat down at the piano and proudly began to play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. When he had finished, he asked the concierge, “I suppose many celebrities come here?” “Yes,” replied the man, “Pederewski was here last week.” The American continued, “And did he play the piano too?” “No,” said the old concierge, “He said he wasn’t worthy.” Ignacy Jan Pererewski was a brilliant Polish pianist, composer, orator, writer, social worker and philosopher who eventually became Prime Minister of Poland in 1919. He was deeply humble and is a model of what today’s readings exhort us to be.
Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds’


****

ILLUSTRATIONS: 

1.    Cross walk

It may begin with a phone call in the middle of the night: a child has been in an accident, a parent has suddenly taken ill.

Or it may take the form of a lesson plan you struggle to lead your students through — kids who are for more interested in video games than subject/verb agreement, algebraic equations, or the Gospel of Luke.

It may be trying to keep peace in the family despite a disagreeable relative or struggling to keep the project going while dealing with a clueless boss or an incompetent team member. 

It can come as ridicule or addiction.  It is often formed by the intersecting beams of despair and abandonment, of exhaustion and anger. 

It may be the money you have — or the money you don’t have.  It may be the passion you have for a cause or the compassion you feel for the victims.

The cross — those struggles and challenges we can’t avoid, those people and situations we try to sidestep, the hard reality that forces us to delay our hopes and abandon our dreams.

But the cross is not necessarily a death sentence or an instrument of torture.  In the right hands, the cross can be a means of healing, an instrument for transformation, a vehicle for resurrection.  It begins with realizing that another set of hands carries that cross with us, that another shoulder bears the load with us.

*******************
2.    Christ’s. 

To follow Jesus of Nazareth requires us to take up the cross.  We never know precisely when or how the cross falls to us: deep darkness of mind or heart, aching and persistent loneliness, foreclosure of a future, immeasurable loss, diminishment, breakdowns in society, the burden of speaking the truth.  But when the cross presents itself, we must pick it up and follow Jesus.  As we walk, the wide road leads to a narrow way; ruts and obstacles jolt us on the journey.  Jesus is just ahead of us, but we see him through a glass darkly.  Not much is clear.  Faith and love, hope and prayer are the meat and bread and drink that sustain us, along with the example of the saints who have walked this way before us — and who walk with us now.  

[From an essay by M. Shawn Copeland in America, January 26, 2007.]   

***************************
3.    Bid for Heaven ( Fr. John Speekman) 

It happened when I was staying at the home of one of my many sisters and one of her daughters came home from school. She was about 15 at the time and she was not in a good mood. 

'Mum' she said 'you'll never guess what happened during Religious Education today. We had an auction and we were all given $1000 dollars to spend. The teacher was auctioning things like popularity, good looks, sporting ability, fame, wealth, and so on. Down the bottom of the list was heaven.'

'I wanted heaven and so when my turn to bid came I said '$500 for heaven'.

'Well, mum, you know Michelle, the girl who doesn't like me, she doesn't even believe in God, well, she knew I was after heaven and so when her turn came she said, '$1000 for heaven.' 

'And she got heaven, Mum, and I didn't!' 

My sister and I couldn't help laughing, which didn't help matters, and finally she said, 'Well, what does that show you?' 

My niece replied, 'I should have given everything and not tried to bargain.'
 
4.    The mark of a great leader  

is the demands he makes upon his followers. The Italian freedom fighter Garibaldi offered his men only hunger and death to free Italy. Winston Churchill told the English people that he had nothing to offer them but "blood, sweat, toil, and tears" in their fight against the enemies of England. Jesus demanded that his followers carry a cross. A sign of death. 

Andrew died on a cross
Simon was crucified
Bartholomew was flayed alive
James (son of Zebedee) was beheaded
The other James (son of Alphaeus) was beaten to death
Thomas was run through with a lance
Matthias was stoned and then beheaded
Matthew was slain by the sword
Peter was crucified upside down
Thaddeus was shot to death with arrows
Philip was hanged

The demands that Jesus makes upon those who would follow him are extreme. Christianity is not a Sunday morning religion. It is a hungering after God to the point of death if need be. It shakes our foundations, topples our priorities, pits us against friend and family, and makes us strangers in this world...
___________________________
5.    You know the feeling.

It is between 2 and 3 in the afternoon - the "pit in the pm" in the words of biorhythm experts. Energy ebbs. Eyelids sag. Your attention span becomes goldfish-short (3 seconds). You are wiped out, wozzy and snoozy. The urge to grab a cat-nap becomes overwhelming. God invented coffee, and energy drinks, for this time of day. Fighting fatigue we all look for ways to revive, reboot, refresh ourselves for the second half of our day.  

How many of us this morning long to revive, reboot, refresh ourselves for the second half of our lives? The second half of high school? The second half of college? The second half of our career path? The second half of our family's life? The second half our retirement plan? The most basic law of life is that "things change" and "nothing stays the same." But the most challenging aspect of life is how we deal with this "law of life." Things change. In the words of our kids, "Deal with it. Get over it. Or get help."

From prison Paul wrote a letter to his friend, his co-worker, his trusted church and Christian community leader. In this letter Paul challenges Philemon to "refresh" himself and reboot his attitudes and expectations. But instead of being confrontational or combative, Paul's highly personal letter is a model of how much easier it is to attract flies with honey than with vinegar. Paul's focus is not on confronting Philemon, but on congratulating and celebrating this Christian colleague.  

From the initial greeting Paul asserts that Philemon is a "dear friend and co-worker." In the "thanksgiving" section (vss. 4-7) of this letter, Paul praises Philemon for his "love" ("agape") and his faith ("pistos") towards "all the saints" and towards "the Lord Jesus." Paul also thanks Philemon for "sharing" his faith and for making his faith "effective" - that is, active - in the world. Faith alive is not static. Faith alive is an active, growing, dynamic thing...
_____________________
6.    A Picture of Discipleship Drawn from the Military

Jesus draws a picture of discipleship from the military. To be a soldier means getting into battle, risking your life. In other words, Christianity isn't lived in a vacuum. There are struggles and conflicts. Our hymn, "Onward Christian Soldiers," reflects the fact that we must fight when demonic forces attack us in life. A Christian must be willing to do spiritual battle for Christ. That's a high cost. 

Soren Kierkegaard said that there are a lot of parade-ground Christians who wear the uniforms of Christianity, but few who are willing to do battle for Christ and his kingdom. When it comes to doing battle for the Lord, too many church members are just sitting on the premises instead of leaning on the promises of God.

Ron Lavin, Sermons for Sundays After Pentecost (Middle Third): Only the Lonely, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.
_____________________________________________
A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.

Martin Luther
_________________________
7.    How Will the Church Be Lighted? 

Several centuries ago in a mountain village in Europe, a wealthy nobleman wondered what legacy he should leave to his townspeople. He made a good decision. He decided to build them a church. No one was permitted to see the plans or the inside of the church until it was finished. At its grand opening, the people gathered and marvelled at the beauty of the new church. Everything had been thought of and included. It was a masterpiece. 

But then someone said, "Wait a minute! Where are the lamps? It is really quite dark in here. How will the church be lighted?" The nobleman pointed to some brackets in the walls, and then he gave each family a lamp, which they were to bring with them each time they came to worship. 

"Each time you are here'" the nobleman said, "the place where you are seated will be lighted. Each time you are not here, that place will be dark. This is to remind you that whenever you fail to come to church, some part of God's house will be dark"

That's a poignant story, isn't it? And it makes a very significant point about the importance of our commitment and loyalty to the church. The poet Edward Everett Hale put it like this: 

I am only one,
but still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something I can do. 

What if every member of your church supported the church just as you do? What kind of church would you have? What if every single member served the church, attended the church, loved the church, shared the church, and gave to the church exactly as you do? What kind of church would you be? 

James W. Moore, Some Things Are Too Good Not To Be True, Dimensions: Nashville, 1994. pp. 117-118.
_______________________
8.    The Right Stuff 

"The right stuff" describes the qualities of character, competence, and temperament possessed by the early astronauts. They had "the right stuff" for the job and all of us admired them for this. In terms of American history, they are kin to those sturdy folk who first settled this nation, as well as those who later broke out of the confines of the eastern seaboard and courageously headed into the western wilderness. Some years ago there was a book about these latter heroes titled Men to Match My Mountains, telling the story of those who had the tough, "right stuff" to stretch this country from coast to coast. 

Jesus is certainly talking about having "the right stuff" in this passage. He is telling us what it would take then, and what it takes now, to be his follower. There is no soft sentimentalism in these words of his. He says that the disciple must be prepared to part with family, to endure suffering, to face enormity of the task, and to give up everything for the sake of the Kingdom. Here, compressed in these brief verses, is the delineation of the "right stuff" required of anyone who accepts Jesus' offer to follow him.

Wallace H. Kirby, If Only..., CSS Publishing Company
______________________________
9.    Are You God's Wife? 

A little boy about 10 years old was standing before a shoe store on the roadway, barefooted, peering through the window, and shivering with cold. A lady approached the boy and said, "My little fellow, why are you looking so earnestly in that window?" "I was asking God to give me a pair of shoes," was the boys reply. The lady took him by the hand and went into the store and asked the clerk to get half a dozen pairs of socks for the boy. She then asked if he could give her a basin of water and a towel. He quickly brought them to her. She took the little guy to the back part of the store and removing her gloves, knelt down, washed his little feet, and dried them with a towel. By this time the clerk returned with the socks. Placing a pair upon the boy's feet, she purchased him a pair of shoes. She tied up the remaining pairs of socks and gave them to him. She patted him on the head and said, "No doubt, my little fellow, you feel more comfortable now?" As she turned to go, the astonished lad caught her by the hand, and looking up in her face, said, "Are you God's wife?"

Traditional
_________________________
10. Unexpected Cost 

When I was in college I was one of several young men who decided to go to work on the section gang of the railroad during the summer vacation. At that time, there was very little automation on the railroad, and most of the work was done by manual labour. Many people warned us about the job. It was a hot job ... very, very hot. It was difficult. Everything out there was heavy. It was a dirty job, and to some extent, it was dangerous. But the pay was most attractive. None of us could make as much money doing anything else in the summer. So we went to work on the railroad, and only one of the five of us lasted the first week. It was too tough or we were too weak. We thought we were ready for this tough job, but we were not. We had not accurately counted the cost. 

Thomas C. Short, Good News for the Multitudes, CSS Publishing
____________________________
The demand for absolute liberty brings men to the depths of slavery.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship
_________________________
There are three conversions necessary: the conversion of the heart, the mind and the purse. Of these three, it may well be that we moderns find the conversion of the purse the most difficult. 

Martin Luther
_________________________
11. The Word Hate 

"If anyone comes after me and does not hate ..." "Hate" is not primarily a feeling word in the Aramaic language, the language Jesus spoke. It is primarily a priority word. It means to abandon or to leave aside; the way a sailor needs to abandon a sinking ship or the way a general needs to leave aside distracting things to win his battle.

John G. Lynch, Troubled Journey, CSS Publishing Company.
___________________________

From Father Tony Kadavil's Collection:

1. We will drill you, and drill you, then drill you again:

Each Fall, a lot of young boys aspire to become football players. But only a few will find their way onto the high school or university teams. Every year a coach challenges the hopefuls, explaining the cost involved:  “Your muscles will ache from calisthenics. We'll run you till you think you can run no more. We will drill  you and drill you, then drill you again, every day, after school. There'll be no drugs, no alcohol. Only if you work hard will you make the team. If you don't, you won't.” The personal, economic, and emotional cost of becoming an Olympic or professional athlete is still higher. Young children spend hours a day practicing their skills and submitting themselves to rigorous programs of diet and exercise to become great gymnasts or dancers. Others accept the cost of dedicating years to study and hard work to become outstanding doctors or lawyers or scientists or writers. In today’s gospel, Jesus challenges his would-be followers to calculate the cost in following him, because they will have to leave their families and possessions and accept the pain and suffering involved in following him as true disciples. 


2. Hating father and mother:

St. Thomas More was the Lord Chancellor, when Henry VIII was the King of England. More was a successful lawyer, a great linguist and a renowned spiritual and political writer. His book, Utopia, has become a classic. When he refused to take an oath supporting the Act of Succession, which recognized the offspring of Henry and his second wife Anne Boleyn, as the heir to the throne, declaring Henry’s first marriage with Catherine as null and void, and repudiating the Pope, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London in the year 1534. He honestly could not approve Henry’s second marriage to Anne, and he could not acknowledge the King as the supreme head of the Church of England. His family implored him – for his sake and theirs – to take the oath. More's beloved daughter, Margaret, took an oath to persuade him to do so, in order that the family might visit him in prison.  With More's wife and son-in-law, Margaret tried hard, but Thomas refused. He spent fifteen lonely months imprisoned in the Tower of London – in poor health, isolated from the other prisoners, deprived of his beloved books; not even paper and pen were given to him. Thomas More was convicted of treason, sentenced to death and, on July 6th 1535, he was beheaded. On mounting the scaffold, More proclaimed that he was ‘the king’s good servant but God’s first’. St. Thomas More paid the price for his discipleship by loving God more than his wife, children, nay, even his life. (John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies).

3.  “The beauty remains; the pain passes.”
 
 During the last several years of his life, the famous French artist, Auguste Renoir, was virtually crippled by arthritis. But he continued to paint every day. His wife Alice had to insert the paintbrush between his fingers in order for him to continue his work. One day his close friend, the famous artist Henri Matisse, watching Auguste paint while he suffered excruciating pain at each colorful stroke, asked him, “Auguste, why do you continue to paint when you are in such agony?” Auguste Renoir’s response was immediate, “The beauty remains; the pain passes.” Passion for his art empowered Renoir to paint until the day he died.  Those who continue to admire the enduring beauty of his smiling portraits, his landscapes, his still-life studies of flowers and fruit will find no trace therein of the pain required to create them. Most will agree that the cost was worth it. In today’s gospel Jesus tells us that following him as a true disciple is costly, but the reward is worth the suffering involved.

***
The mark of a great leader is the demands he makes upon his followers. The Italian freedom fighter Garibaldi offered his men only hunger and death to free Italy. Winston Churchill told the English people that he had nothing to offer them but "blood, sweat, toil, and tears" in their fight against the enemies of England. Jesus demanded that his followers carry a cross. A sign of death.

Andrew died on a cross
Simon was crucified
Bartholomew was flayed alive
James (son of Zebedee) was beheaded
The other James (son of Alphaeus) was beaten to death
Thomas was run through with a lance
Matthias was stoned and then beheaded
Matthew was slain by the sword
Peter was crucified upside down
Thaddeus was shot to death with arrows
Philip was hanged

The demands that Jesus makes upon those who would follow him are extreme. Christianity is not a Sunday morning religion. It is a hungering after God to the point of death if need be. It shakes our foundations, topples our priorities, pits us against friend and family, and makes us strangers in this world...

In a jewelry store window of a large shopping center, a sign was posted which read: "Crosses for sale, half-price." That sign just set my mind to reeling with its implications.

In our culture it means very little to wear a cross. For many it is a meaningless piece of jewelry. When the singer Madonna wears a cross, her audience does not presume she is making a faith statement. Perhaps a fashion statement, but not a faith statement.

I am convinced that were it not for all the jewelry, lots of major league baseball players could steal more bases. All that stuff slows them down. When that 300 hitter steps to the plate with a cross dangling from his ear, neither the sportscasters nor the fans presume that he is making a faith statement. People wear lots of jewelry these days, including crosses, around the neck, on fingers, in ears, attached to navels and noses. For thousands of people, the cross is just one more popular piece of jewelry without any clear symbolism.


Contrast our situation with some cultures where today the cross can cost you your life. In Nepal today there are 168 people in the court system charged with nothing more than being Christians. Recently a Christian named Abraham was killed in India by a hostile Hindu group. Bishop Dolok of Indonesia returned home to find that Muslim groups had burned down many of his churches, and one pastor's family was burned to death within the church building. Christians today are the most persecuted religious group in the world, and the persecution is intensifying. Crosses are not cheap everywhere.

Jesus said, "If anyone wants to be my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross dally, and follow me." In that context, a cross refers to some suffering or sacrifice that you undertake voluntarily out of love for Christ and concern for other people. Carrying a cross will not earn you a ticket to heaven. Those tickets are free gifts from God, paid for by Christ on a cross. But if you have received that free gift of salvation....
__________________________
A Picture of Discipleship Drawn from the Military

Jesus draws a picture of discipleship from the military. To be a soldier means getting into battle, risking your life. In other words, Christianity isn't lived in a vacuum. There are struggles and conflicts. Our hymn, "Onward Christian Soldiers," reflects the fact that we must fight when demonic forces attack us in life. A Christian must be willing to do spiritual battle for Christ. That's a high cost.

Soren Kierkegaard said that there are a lot of parade-ground Christians who wear the uniforms of Christianity, but few who are willing to do battle for Christ and his kingdom. When it comes to doing battle for the Lord, too many church members are just sitting on the premises instead of leaning on the promises of God.

Ron Lavin, Sermons for Sundays After Pentecost (Middle Third): Only the Lonely, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.

____________________
A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.

Martin Luther
_____________________ 
How Will the Church Be Lighted?

Several centuries ago in a mountain village in Europe, a wealthy nobleman wondered what legacy he should leave to his townspeople. He made a good decision. He decided to build them a church. No one was permitted to see the plans or the inside of the church until it was finished. At its grand opening, the people gathered and marveled at the beauty of the new church. Everything had been thought of and included. It was a masterpiece.

But then someone said, "Wait a minute! Where are the lamps? It is really quite dark in here. How will the church be lighted?" The nobleman pointed to some brackets in the walls, and then he gave each family a lamp, which they were to bring with them each time they came to worship.

"Each time you are here'" the nobleman said, "the place where you are seated will be lighted. Each time you are not here, that place will be dark. This is to remind you that whenever you fail to come to church, some part of God's house will be dark"

That's a poignant story, isn't it? And it makes a very significant point about the importance of our commitment and loyalty to the church. The poet Edward Everett Hale put it like this:


I am only one,
but still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.

What if every member of your church supported the church just as you do? What kind of church would you have? What if every single member served the church, attended the church, loved the church, shared the church, and gave to the church exactly as you do? What kind of church would you be?

James W. Moore, Some Things Are Too Good Not To Be True, Dimensions: Nashville, 1994. pp. 117-118.
_________________  
The Right Stuff

"The right stuff" describes the qualities of character, competence, and temperament possessed by the early astronauts. They had "the right stuff" for the job and all of us admired them for this. In terms of American history, they are kin to those sturdy folk who first settled this nation, as well as those who later broke out of the confines of the eastern seaboard and courageously headed into the western wilderness. Some years ago there was a book about these latter heroes titled Men to Match My Mountains, telling the story of those who had the tough, "right stuff" to stretch this country from coast to coast.

Jesus is certainly talking about having "the right stuff" in this passage. He is telling us what it would take then, and what it takes now, to be his follower. There is no soft sentimentalism in these words of his. He says that the disciple must be prepared to part with family, to endure suffering, to face enormity of the task, and to give up everything for the sake of the Kingdom. Here, compressed in these brief verses, is the delineation of the "right stuff" required of anyone who accepts Jesus' offer to follow him.

Wallace H. Kirby, If Only..., CSS Publishing Company

__________________________________
Are You God's Wife?

A little boy about 10 years old was standing before a shoe store on the roadway, barefooted, peering through the window, and shivering with cold. A lady approached the boy and said, "My little fellow, why are you looking so earnestly in that window?" "I was asking God to give me a pair of shoes," was the boys reply. The lady took him by the hand and went into the store and asked the clerk to get half a dozen pairs of socks for the boy. She then asked if he could give her a basin of water and a towel. He quickly brought them to her. She took the little guy to the back part of the store and removing her gloves, knelt down, washed his little feet, and dried them with a towel. By this time the clerk returned with the socks. Placing a pair upon the boy's feet, she purchased him a pair of shoes. She tied up the remaining pairs of socks and gave them to him. She patted him on the head and said, "No doubt, my little fellow, you feel more comfortable now?" As she turned to go, the astonished lad caught her by the hand, and looking up in her face, said, "Are you God's wife?"

Traditional
___________________________________
Unexpected Cost

When I was in college I was one of several young men who decided to go to work on the section gang of the railroad during the summer vacation. At that time, there was very little automation on the railroad, and most of the work was done by manual labor. Many people warned us about the job. It was a hot job ... very, very hot. It was difficult. Everything out there was heavy. It was a dirty job, and to some extent, it was dangerous. But the pay was most attractive. None of us could make as much money doing anything else in the summer. So we went to work on the railroad, and only one of the five of us lasted the first week. It was too tough or we were too weak. We thought we were ready for this tough job, but we were not. We had not accurately counted the cost.

Thomas C. Short, Good News for the Multitudes, CSS Publishing 
___________________
The demand for absolute liberty brings men to the depths of slavery.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship
___________________  

There are three conversions necessary: the conversion of the heart, the mind and the purse. Of these three, it may well be that we moderns find the conversion of the purse the most difficult.

Martin Luther 
______________________
The Word Hate

"If anyone comes after me and does not hate ..." "Hate" is not primarily a feeling word in the Aramaic language, the language Jesus spoke. It is primarily a priority word. It means to abandon or to leave aside; the way a sailor needs to abandon a sinking ship or the way a general needs to leave aside distracting things to win his battle.

John G. Lynch, Troubled Journey, CSS Publishing Company.
_______________________

Knowing Our Business

Some of us had the joy of listening to one of our generation's truly great preachers, Fred Craddock when he was chaplain at Chautauqua for a week. One morning he told a story from the early years of his ministry in Custer City, Oklahoma, a town of about 450 souls. There were four churches there, a Methodist church, a Baptist church, a Nazarene church, and a Christian church (where Fred served). Each had its share of the population on Wednesday night, Sunday morning, and Sunday evening. Each had a small collection of young people, and the attendance rose and fell according to the weather and whether it was time to harvest the wheat.

But the most consistent attendance in town was at the little café where all the pickup trucks were parked, and all the men were inside discussing the weather, and the cattle, and the wheat bugs, and the hail, and the wind, and is there going to be a crop. All their wives and sons and daughters were in one of those four churches. The churches had good attendance and poor attendance, but the café had consistently good attendance, better attendance than some of the churches. They were always there - not bad men, but good men, family men, hard-working men.

Fred says the patron saint of the group that met at the café was named Frank. Frank was seventy-seven when they first met. He was a good, strong man, a pioneer, a rancher and farmer, and a prospering cattle man too. He had been born in a sod house; he had his credentials, and all the men there at the café considered him their patron saint. "Ha! Old Frank will never go to church."

Fred says....