The Price of Following Jesus

Matthew 8:18-22
Am 2: 6-10, 13-16 / Ps 50: 16 -23

“Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.”
(Matthew 8:22)

For true Christians life is too short;
By the Spirit we’ve been inspired
To give our all for what it’s worth,
For Christ nothing less is required.

When Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to cross to the other side. A scribe approached and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest His head.” Another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But Jesus answered him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.” (Matthew 8:18-22)

Reflection

One of the teachers of the law, after witnessing all the miraculous healings that Jesus had performed, and the amazing lessons that He taught, could hardly contain his exuberance, and blurted out that he would go with Jesus anywhere He went. But our Lord knew that the scribe’s commitment was merely skin-deep, and driven only by his emotion of the moment, so Jesus reminded him that if he wanted to go with Him, he would have to leave the comforts of home. Another man, who had already decided to be His disciple, asked to be excused for a while to bury his father, but instead of letting him go, Jesus said, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.”

At first it may strike us as strange that our Lord would reject one who was eager to follow Him, and yet force another to come with Him and abandon his duty to bury his father first. But upon reflection, we realize that in the case of the first ‘wannabe’ follower, not everyone is called or qualified to serve in God’s special ministry or vocation. And in the case of the second, Jesus is saying that nothing is more important than serving in the kingdom of God. Let those who are without spiritual life be the ones to bury the dead, who can no longer be saved; but those who have life in the Spirit have a greater duty to the living. In effect, Jesus is saying, “The harvest is rich, but the laborers are few. There is no time to waste; commitment to the kingdom of God sets aside everything, even our most intimate relations. In the Gospel passage of St. Luke, Jesus even said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God” (Lk.9:62).

The conditions for following Jesus leave no room for concessions. As our Lord showed in His own passion and death, we must be focused and resolute in pursuing the ultimate purpose of our life, whatever conditions may prevail against it. St. Peter said, “Do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you… But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when His glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly” (1Pet.4:12-13). St. Paul likewise said, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). These two saints suffered the same fate of the early Christians in Rome during the reign of Nero.

Christ’s message for us today is meant to separate the men from the boys. It is not a walk in the park to follow Jesus. The number of Catholics leaving their Church to join other denominations, and even the declining membership in many renewal organizations are clear signs of a lack of commitment to carry His cross and take the hard and narrow path to life in our Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps this was why He said, “Only a few find it” (Mt.7:14). Are you willing to pay the price to follow Jesus?

Dear God, in following Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, may we always be inspired by the example of the early martyrs and saints, who paid a high price to establish Your kingdom here on earth. In their honor we give You praise and glory. Amen.

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