Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Continuing Along the Path of Discipleship

I think often upon the story of the rich man who came to Jesus and asked, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?"

Assured that the rich man had purposed to keep the commandments, Our Lord responds,"One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

The only thing that the rich man could not give was required for discipleship. Surrendering his greatest treasure was the cost of following Christ. How much easier it would be if Christ had told the adulterous woman at the well of Samaria to sell her possessions and had required that the rich man not commit adultery!

But, somehow, the pattern of discipleship is such that Christ puts his finger on our dearest treasures and proclaims, "That is mine. That is the cost of discipleship."

Here is where I am tempted to turn away in sorrow, because I, like the rich man, have earthly loves.

Why is the cost of discipleship everything? Why can't I hold onto just one thing? Aren't these seemingly sensical questions?

Perhaps, though, my eyes suffer blindness. What if discipleship and whole devotion to the love of God is the treasure of unspeakable worth? What if asking Christ if I can keep my riches and then follow is like telling a benefactor, "I will only receive the gift of your estate if you but let me keep my pennies."? "You fool," that benefactor may say to me, "if you think that your pennies are valuable, you will never honor my estate rightly."

Christ, standing before the rich man reminds me of this benefactor. "Unless you recognize the insignificance of what you hold so tightly, you will never rightly value the gift of eternal life."

"You shall have no other gods before Me," the first commandment tells me. As a child, I thought that this was the easiest commandment to obey. I imagined that an idol was a little statue carved of wood. A little life has taught me that this commandment is the most poignant, the one that cuts to the deepest place of my soul. I have recognized, that, in fact, there are many idols that my heart wants to set before God.

Unless I have no idols before Him, I cannot be a disciple. Why no idols, Lord? Why not just one?

If I had even just one idol, I could never value rightly the gift of God Himself and I could never enter into the union for which I was created. Unless I recognize that everything else is utterly worthless, compared to the gift of following the Christ, I do not deserve to be a disciple. That is the cost of my discipleship.

Is cost the right word? What is giving up my pennies when The Benefactor gives me, in return, His entire estate? Nothing.

The amazing thing is how often I find that after I have released the tight grip that I hold on my pennies, those exact pennies are restored unto me, but rightly so. What was required because it was an idol set before Divine Love, is restored as a beautiful image of Divine Love.