Life & Soul

Are we willing to pay the true cost of discipleship?

King Solomon, depicted by Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665)

The 23rd Sunday of the Year
Wis 9:13-18; Phil 9-10, 12-17; Lk 14:25-33 (Year C)

“What man can know the intentions of God? Who can divine the will of the Lord?”

This question, attributed to Solomon in the Book of Wisdom, precedes a moving reflection on the wisdom of heart that predisposes faith to communion with the living God. It is grounded in a humility that truly acknowledges the limits of its own understanding. “The reasonings of mortals are unsure and our intentions unstable; for
a perishable body presses down the soul, and this tent of clay weighs down the teeming mind.”

In our impatience to discern and understand the will of God, we should have the humility to confess that at times we can scarcely understand the contradictions of our own divided lives.

True discernment, both of ourselves and the will of God, is not our own achievement. It is God’s gift to hearts that trust beyond doubt and discouragement. “As for God’s intention, who could have learnt it, had you not granted Wisdom and sent your holy spirit from above?”

Such is the grace that grounds faith in the times of greatest challenge. Thus, as Jesus approached Jerusalem and the seeming folly of his own approaching death, he confronted his disciples with the true cost of discipleship. “If any man comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife, children, brothers and sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple. Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

The challenge is extreme in its language, but expresses a commitment demanded of all. It is only in the surrender of self that we are truly alive in the Lord. Such a choice lies beyond the discernment of human wisdom. Its Wisdom is the gift of Christ himself. In the words of St Paul, it is a choice that may be illogical to those who are not on the way to salvation, but to those who are on the way to salvation, it is God’s power to save.

Such was the Wisdom that led Jesus through Gethsemane’s uncertainty and fear to communion with the Father. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me. Nevertheless, let your will be done, not mine.”

This is the Wisdom for which Solomon had prayed, a wisdom whereby “the paths of those on earth are straightened and men have been taught what pleases you”.