Year C: 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Gospel: Luke 14: 1, 25-33
Sometimes, Jesus can be very uncompromising and today’s Gospel is a good example of this.
Luke begins by saying that Jesus is being accompanied by great crowds. Some people would have been following because they had been cured of some disease - or perhaps they had witnessed such a cure. Even more would have been following simply out of curiosity. Jesus senses that most are following unthinkingly - He is simply a good attraction - the latest novelty.
He decides that it is time to make people think about what they are doing - and the possible cost of it.
Luke is writing for Gentile Christians who would often have had to fly in the face of their family and friends’ expectations to become Christians. It would not have been accepted as it is for us today. They would have understood what Jesus meant about the divisions following Him would cause - and how their discipleship would often feel like a cross. They would have had a long period of preparation for becoming a Christian - catechumenate.
During this time, they would have had to look at the consequences of the decision they were planning to take. Like the builder and the king Jesus uses to show the importance of “looking before you leap”, the catechumens would have had to look ahead and decide whether they had enough resources to carry through the project of becoming a Christian.
Most Catholics and Christians have never had to do this. They were baptised as babies on the assumption that their parents would have done the looking-ahead for them. For many, there is the chance to confirm the choice by being confirmed later on. - but, even then, it is unlikely that they will have really questioned what being a Christian is likely to cost them. Some children and young people do face challenges in the Christian life - but it is really as adults that we confront the choices and the costs - and often feel unequal to them. We feel that we are like the builder and king who set out on something and now find we can’t carry it through.
But, we have people around us who have made a conscious choice to join the Church - and perhaps we can learn something from them. What was it that attracted them to the Church? What did it cost them? Was it worth it?
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (R.C.I.A.) was developed so that people coming into the Church had a long period of time to work out whether this was the right thing for them. It is often very much shortened these days - but, originally was expected to last several years from first enquiry/ attendance at Mass to full Initiation.
In this way, the person - and the community - could feel their way to the right decision. It was not designed to “get them in” - as some cults do - by force-feeding them ways of thinking and behaving.
It was designed to give people many opportunities to see how their life-story and the Christian and Catholic life-stories touched. They would have time to see what things might need to change - what influences they might need to avoid, and so on...
If at the end of all that, they still knew that Christianity and Catholicism were for them - then their conversion would be strong and real - and for life - life in all its fullness
What does it mean for me?
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