Requirements of Discipleship
13th Sunday of the Year (C)

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

There was a great general who set out to conquer a group of fierce tribes on an island. When his soldiers have crossed to the island he ordered the boats to be burned.

Action starter: List down what it costs you to follow the Lord Jesus.

There was no turning back. They had to move forward and win or die. Great sacrifices have to be made if one was to be a part of this conquering group.

We hear stories of some of our Catholics converting to other denominations. They are told to get rid of their rosaries and even break or burn their religious statues. This signals a radical break in their lives. One is leaving behind certain practices that are connected with a former group.

This Sunday’s readings underline the requirements of discipleship. Following the Lord Jesus is not a walk in the park. A person who is considering to follow a new direction in his life has first to make up his mind and make a decision. He must be willing to pay the price for his decision. He must be committed to his course of action.

The first reading shows the call of the prophet Elijah calling Elisha to succeed him (1 Kng: 19-21). Elijah threw his cloak over Elisha while the latter was plowing his field. Literally, Elisha was being given the mantle of a prophet. Like his oxen, he was being yoked to this heavy burden. At first Elisha hesitated and wanted to make his goodbyes to his family. When Elijah reprimanded him, he made up his mind and slaughtered his oxen. Using his plowing equipment as fuel. He cooked the meat and gave them to his people to eat. There was no turning back.

In the second reading, St. Paul advises the Galatians to throw away the yoke of slavery. They have been freed by Christ. They have been freed from the yoke of sin and even from certain cultural and religious requirements such as the Jewish practice of circumcision. They must therefore follow Christ . The law that matters is the law of love, “Out of love, place yourselves at one another’s service” (Gal. 5:13).

The Gospel speaks of Jesus undertaking his final journey to Jerusalem. This would be a decisive journey. Unlike previous visits to Jerusalem, this time He knew that He was walking towards His death. Along the way, some people volunteered to follow Him and Jesus showed to them the requirements for discipleship.

There is a cost to discipleship. It will cost one his convenience and comfort, “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Lk 9:58). To be a disciple is to make Jesus and His mission Number One in his life. Even what is culturally sacred such as one’s family obligations take second place. “Let the dead bury their dead” (v. 60). To be a disciple is to be committed to the task and to be single-minded in purpose, “Whoever puts his hand to the plow but keeps looking back is unfit for the reign of God” (v. 62).

Even if one has to make allowances for the Mediterranean style of hyperbole in order to drive home the point, it is clear that following Jesus is a serious decision. Sacrifices have to be made. One must burn his bridges behind. To follow Jesus entails commitment and perseverance.

There is an indicator to know if we are truly following in the footsteps of the Lord. Is it costing us anything at all? If it does not cost us anything, perhaps we are not really following in His footsteps.