In today’s Gospel reading Jesus has severe, harsh, challenging things to say to us. It’s important to recognize that he is using a Hebrew idiom when he says we should hate all our close relatives: father, mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters. Does he mean that if we want to follow Christ, we must hate everyone else, even ourselves? No! He means that we must love and prefer himself above all others if we want to follow him.
Even more, he demands that we carry a cross if we want to follow him. That means we should live as if we were convicted criminals sentenced to death by crucifixion, just as he was. If we want to be disciples of Jesus we are to consider ourselves convicts on our way to a cruel death He demands our total loyalty, our all. Our witness to Jesus must be complete like that of a martyr.
The Lord knew that he was demanding a huge, difficult response from his followers. He says that they must think carefully before they attempt it. He compared it to large enterprises such as a ruler deciding to go to war or a business man building a tower block.
The danger is that when we are weighing up the cost of discipleship we may count only the negative reasons against, for instance when someone is deciding whether to be confirmed or to join a religious community or whether to apologise to a person who has wronged him.
It’s right to take into account the negatives but we must also look at the reasons why we should do what the Lord is asking of us. What might these be?
I’m reminded of a hymn we sometimes sing. It is in the New English Hymnal number 272. Each verse begins ‘All for Jesus, All for Jesus’ and it’s a lovely, joyful response we can make to the demanding claims of our Lord.
The author of this hymn was Dr Sparrow Simpson, who wrote it to be the closing chorus in John Stainer’s oratorio ‘The Crucifixion’ 1887. Sparrow Simpson was honorary chaplain of an ancient alms-house foundation, Ilford Hospital Chapel, from1904 until his death in1952. Many of us who use the Community Library will have come across his books, which he gave to our Community.
Dr Sparrow Simpson’s hymn provides reasons why we should gladly give our all to Jesus. If you wish you may look at Hymn 272 while I am speaking about it.
The first verse names Jesus our Saviour. We can put our hope for our entire future in Jesus because by his cross and Passion he saved us from the destructive forces of evil and brought us into his heavenly kingdom.
The second verse suggests many reasons why we should give all we are and possess for Jesus. He loves us and is always with us. In his strength and power we can serve him hour by hour. Not only can we give our all to Jesus but we shall be content when we do, because we receive Christ our Saviour in the holy sacrament of the altar.
The fourth verse recapitulates what we have sung so far. All for Jesus because he has loved us, because he died for us and because he is with us.
We come to the last verse. Giving our all to Jesus is not just a private, individual matter. The whole Church sings this song with us until the last day when all shall see Jesus glorified. Then he will lovingly gather to himself all who have followed him.
The mention of the whole Church giving her all for Jesus may lead us to recall all the faithful saints and martyrs who in many different ways have given their all for Jesus. In recent times we remember the parents who witnessed their little children martyred by Isis terrorists and also those Christian congregations in Sri Lanka who as they celebrated Holy Mass on the Lord’s Day were martyred by terrorists.
Tomorrow we celebrate our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, on her official birthday. She was the first to give her all for Jesus when she humbly accepted the angel’s message to become his mother.
Now she reigns as Queen in heaven we greet her as the Mother of God saying together:
‘Hail Mary full of grace the Lord is with you blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.’
Crispin Harrison CR