23rd Sunday of the Year
We have all heard the expression ‘terms and conditions apply’. What seems like a fantastic offer has hidden charges and costs, but we are drawn by large loud lettering. I am always on the look-out for bargains and offers, but am afraid that I can be sucked occasionally into buying what I don’t really need after all. I console myself with the thought ‘At least I saved money.’
Whenever we made a purchase growing up, our parents would always ask whether, and expect us to tell them, that there was an offer, a discount, a deal, a sale. ‘How much did you save?’ The thought of paying full price was foreign to us.
Every January Mum and Dad would head up to Dublin for the annual outing – where and why? The January sales! You can get a lot of 75% off deals in January for the following Christmas. And yes, I have loyalty cards, fobs and vouchers. I am enticed by sale signs, buy one get one free – things I hadn’t planned on buying at all!
When the first grandchild was born we wondered who or which side she would take after. To our relief the first full word she could read unassisted at 4 was a sign in a shop as they were out driving. She shouted out, look Mom, that sign says ‘FREE’. Yes, she’s a McCarthy.
Jesus offers us something today. There are no hidden costs, extras, surcharges, taxes, or penalties or interest for late payments. To all, it not an exclusive offer, it is open to everyone – the possibility of being a follower which will take us to eternal life. The cost is clearly laid out – carrying the cross.
Jesus uses very challenging and seemingly offensive language. To follow him means to hate? That can’t be right! Hate my family?
The term to hate is really about 'preference’. We must prefer to follow Jesus, especially if there is a conflict of interest. It means family ties, ties of flesh and blood, commitments must all be seen in the light of Jesus. It means proper planning and priorities. Jesus uses the examples of a foolish person who builds without proper planning, or a wise king who sues for peace when he knows he is outnumbered. We might have heard of the expression ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’!
There was once a man who went to a psychiatrist. His life was a mess, his business, his finances, his marriage were coming apart at the seams. There did not seem to be enough hours in the day to accomplish everything he planned and keep everything afloat, and nobody was happy with him, and he was deeply unhappy himself. The psychiatrist told him to make a list of all the things that were to be done, and then re-write the list in the order of priority - from the essential and the immediate e.g., his married life, his children, his job, money – to put them in the right order of importance – to things that could wait. The psychiatrist would not take money right then but told the man send me a check to the value of how much this advice is worth to you. The man’s life had totally changed and he sent a check for $25,000 six months later!
I must put my life in order – God’s will first in all things that I plan in my life in my family life, married life, career, finances, spending, relations in the community, my time.
Finally to sum up, the great offer, the great bargain as it were is the offer of eternal life in exchange for the Cross. Christ says, carry the cross, and ‘Come after me’. Jesus uses the word ‘COME’ which can mean ‘Christ offers me everything’ or ‘Christ offers me eternity!’