How Not to Follow Jesus

“How not to be a follower of Jesus” would be an appropriate title, I think, for the gospel we just heard. If you’ll recall, we were introduced to two characters. The first promised that he would follow Jesus wherever he would go. Yet Jesus replies to this boast with a warning. Unlike the foxes and birds, Jesus said, he had nowhere to lay his head. In other words, our Lord was telling this person that following him might be a bit more challenging than he imagined, and that he might wish to think twice before signing on the bottom line. In a sense, Jesus was asking: “Are you sure you want to follow me? Do you really know what you’re getting into?”

The second character we meet agrees to follow Jesus, but only after he has buried his father. Now we have to understand that this person’s father was not dead. His father was living, and he wanted to stay nearby. In effect, this person was saying: “I’d like to follow you, Jesus, but only when it’s more convenient. It’s just not the right time; I have other things I want to do first.” Jesus’ response that the dead should bury their own dead was his way of saying that following him is more important than anything else we might do.

The witness of these two individuals serves to remind us that if we truly want to be disciples of Christ, we need to be prepared to make significant changes in our life, and make them right away. In other words, authentic discipleship is not an afterthought or just a part time activity, but should instead be our top priority that absolutely defines who we are and what we do. We’re called to serve, not according to our own plan and out own timetable, but God’s. In the words of St. Alphonsus Liguori, “We must love God, then, in the way that pleases him, and not just in a way that suits ourselves.”

Reading for today’s Mass:

Photo Credit: Ernst Vikne via Creative Commons