Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, "If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, 'This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.' Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops? But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms.
In the same way, everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple."
No saint is made from one moment to another. The common experience of a Christian life is that we gradually grow in virtue, in conviction and in coherence with the Good News. Every life is a story of ups and downs, with turns and holds, containing both acceleration and accidents. In today’s Gospel, on the other hand, Jesus seems to demand a radical and punctual commitment. Does He disregard our need for graduality?
The commitment which Jesus describes no doubt corresponds to the unique moment of a person’s conversion or vocation when you find yourself before Christ and perceive this encounter as an invitation to follow Him wholeheartedly. But while such a punctual experience is especially powerful, it is far from conclusive. It is a beginning and then becomes the underlying commitment to Christ which needs to be renewed or recovered constantly and - yes - gradually. Throughout the curriculum of life and its gradual steps forward, the fundamental decision is repeatedly one and the same, no matter the stage: Christ or the rest. Choosing Christ means - in a certain sense - to “hate” the rest, to “renounce” the rest. So Jesus demands a decisive and wholehearted commitment which repeats itself time and again. Every day is, in that sense, a potential conversion.
The strong expressions “hate” and “renounce” highlight the stark contrast between the alternatives. Their meaning is comprehensible only in the light of eternity: What is the point of my existence? On what do I want to build my life? Where am I looking for definite happiness? Embracing Christ as my God in the light of eternity will then shine onto my time and my world. This is what looking at reality from the standpoint of Christ means: Turning away from the world radically in order to choose Christ - only to re-turn to that same world in a new way: in Christ.
When you next recollect yourself during a moment of mental prayer, look at Jesus. He invites you to renew your decision for Him. Not because He does not want you to love anything besides Him, nor because He wants you to forsake all the “rest”. But to teach you how to love the rest with and through and in Him. In His presence and by His grace, look at your existence in the light of eternity and ask: What things do really matter? Look at the world, the thousands of things and persons which you love. Despite all their beauty and goodness, they cannot make you happy forever. This could discombobulate you, it probably does if you really consider it. But in this state of reflection or uncertainty Jesus steps up, He looks at you, He reaches out and invites you to truly be His disciple. His disciples love all things in Christ. This is a moment, once again, to respond to the question: Christ or the rest?