Commitment for Life

Al Cariño, OMI
Editor: Mindanao Cross
Reproduced with Permission

23rd Sunday in ordinary times

In our present use–and–dispose world, some people have asserted that life–long commitments are at its end. They cite as indicators the mounting cases of married couples, religious and priests turning their backs on their vows. Jesus completely disagrees.

The gospel (Lk. 14:25-33) tells us that while Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, a vast crowd traveled with Him. He knew that His mission to build His Kingdom in people's minds and hearts would culminate in Jerusalem where the cross awaited Him. But did the crowd know what they were going into when they become His followers? Not wanting to delude anyone, Jesus turned to them and said, “If any one 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. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

In Hebrew, “to hate” means to put one thing in second place to something else. Thus to be Jesus' disciple means to commit one's self completely to Him, placing Him above everything and everyone else — parents, wife, children, brothers and sisters and even life. This is what taking up one's cross daily means.

Thus to follow Jesus is an all or nothing affair. There is no in–between kind. As Revelations tells us, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.... So, because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:15–16).

True, in one inspired moment, we can leave behind our loved ones and the comfort of home to respond to the call, say, to the priesthood or the religious life. But to persevere for life in this undertaking is an altogether different matter. We can also be heroic when the moment calls for it, e.g., saving a drowning child at the risk of our life. But to take up our cross daily and for life is something else.

Most of us eventually end up raising our own families. Let us look at the daily demands on a married couple. Generally, the husband is the bread winner of the family. So whether he is in the mood or not, he goes to work daily. Though there are problems at work and at home, he tries to put them aside so that his efficiency and effectivity will not suffer. On the wife's part, aside from taking care of the children, she also does most of the house chores — from the moment she wakes up till she goes to bed at night. Underlying all these is the couple's common effort to provide a Christian home for the family — a 24 hour work indeed. For a married couple, it is in this that taking up their cross daily consists for the most part.

We really do not have to look for our crosses elsewhere. Our daily lives are already full of them. Yet, though carrying them out daily is difficult, they are very ordinary tasks and responsibilities. The secret is to do them in an extra-ordinary way, i.e., to do them out of love for God. Then they become meaningful. Then they become meritorious and redemptive. If other heavy crosses come our way, we can consider them as added bonus.

Jesus assists us in making a life–time commitment to Him through two parables. First, He cites the case a man who wishes to construct a tower. Before he does so, he should first calculate the cost to determine if he has the needed resources for its completion. Otherwise, having laid the foundation, he would be unable to finish it, thus becoming everyone's laughing stock. Then there is the case of a king about to wage war against another. A war in those times was an all or nothing affair. If one side surrendered without a fight, its leaders were put to death while the rest of the population were made into slaves. If it fought and lost, then everyone — leaders and people — would be put to the sword. If a king knew that his enemy had a stronger army, it would be wise for him to send emissaries to resolve their conflict in some other way. In both cases, Jesus places the emphasis on serious deliberation before making a major decision.

In something as serious as deciding to follow Jesus for which our loved ones and even life itself are put in second place, serious prayerful discernment is needed. It would help to realize that Jesus does not ask us to do anything that He had not done Himself. He left the comforts of home and gave His all including His life for us and for our redemption. The driving force behind this is His love for us. In our case, to persevere in our commitment to be a disciple of Jesus — whether as an unmarried person, parent, a religious or a priest — also depends on our determination to take up our cross daily out of love for Jesus and everything that He stands for. For love alone can sustain us through the ups and downs of a truly Christian life.