A great crowd began to tag along with Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem. My guess is that there was much excitement and speculation about what was going to happen once they got to Jerusalem, the political and religious capitol. Jesus was a gifted preacher and miracle worker who was unlike other religious authorities, for he even welcomed sinners and ate with them. Because of his working class background and small town roots, he was someone to whom the ordinary people could relate. Some were also wondering if he might be the Messiah. People were jumping on the bandwagon, and a party atmosphere was developing.
Suddenly, Jesus whirled around and spoke today's sobering and challenging words: "If anyone comes to me without hating his family and his own life, he cannot be my disciple." He then told two parables, both of which counsel that one needs to enter into discipleship with open eyes and level head; only a complete awareness of the costs, conditions and consequences of commitment to him will enable them to persevere. The journey to Jerusalem was not a victory march in the sense most expected. It was not a free ride to glory or positions of importance in the messianic kingdom. It was time for everyone to put up or shut up.
Many perhaps bailed at this point. Some probably did not believe their ears or take too seriously what they were hearing and continued on. Eventually all would abandon him at the darkest moments of betrayal and crucifixion. And afterwards, only a few would remember these words and once again take up the challenge they present.
How about us?
The dangerous Jesus of the first Christian century is not the safe Christ of our liturgy. But, it is the dangerous Jesus who flashes the challenge to us today.
-Fr. Sas, September 8 Homily
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C