Once in a while I received email ads with the messages to offer free items such as, “Free laptop,” “free cell phone” or “free $150 coupons” etc... It sounds good and looks attractive. Sometimes I wanted to believe them. I clicked on the message, and it led me to the website. A form appeared on the screen for me to fill in my name, mailing address, email address, telephone number, and then a long list of questions for me to answer. Once I finished the first series of questions, it led me to another, and to another, and then to another. The lead seemed never end. They also expected me to make some commitment to subscribe to some of their magazines or products. Finally, at the end, they requested me to give out information of my credit card. When they asked for my credit card, I just canceled it. I was not willing to take the risk. Actually, I believe that I would never get a laptop or the phone or the item they promised. It was too good to be true. It was a scam. There is always a string attached to it. There is a cost for everything sooner or later.
If you want to buy a new house, a new car, a computer, or even school supplies, you have to pay for it. If you want to have a certificate, a diploma, a college degree or an advance degree, you must go to school, study hard, do your homework, pay the tuitions and pass the exams. If you want a promotion at work or a raise, you have to work hard to earn it. There is a price for everything. We need to finance $1,5 million for our new building; the bank is not going to give us a loan free of interest. There is a cost and a price to pay.
The success of a business in our free market system depends very much on commercial advertises. They present to their customers their products, the usefulness of their products, and their reasonable prices etc. . . . They manipulate our human psyche in order to attract our attention and interests to buy their products. They make it look so good that would be difficult for us to resist.
Jesus, on the other hand, is very different. He is telling the truth. He is clear and honest with us. He does not sugar-coat us with attractive ads. Jesus is the salesman who offers no discount, no price-cut, and no roll-off prices. There is no special offer or deal in His Ads. To understand Him and to believe in his product, we must have a “spiritual psyche.” Spiritual psyche is our sense of spiritual life. When we have a strong sense of spiritual life, we want to look for things that belong to heaven. Jesus states unambiguously “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.”
Of course Jesus does not mean “hate” in the animosity sense. He doesn’t want us to hate our family. He wants us to love our family. St. Matthew helps us to better understand what Jesus means here. “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Mt 10:37).
Eternal life is more important than earthly life. The kingdom of heaven is more important than worldly kingdom. Our parents and members of our family can feed us with food. They can support us. They can give us monies or material things. They can pray for us, but they cannot give us the bread of eternal life. They cannot give us the gift of salvation. They cannot provide us eternal life. We cannot save ourselves either. Only Jesus can save us. Only Jesus can provide us eternal life; therefore, we should love Him more than self and anyone else. We can have our salvation only through Jesus. There is no other way. And He says that there should be no compromise, no negotiation, and no deal. We must put him first! He is the number One in our life. “Anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be by disciple” (Lk 14:33). To be Jesus’ disciple means to follow his lifestyle. To renounce all means to place everything and everyone else secondary and inferior to Christ.
Obviously, there is a cost to be his disciples. The kingdom of God is not cheap. We cannot receive forgiveness just by looking at Jesus on the Cross or by only listening to a sermon on forgiveness without repenting and asking for forgiveness and absolution. We cannot claim ourselves Christians only by reading the Bible or by baptism without practicing our faith. There would be no salvation without cross and no resurrection without dying to ourselves. Jesus also clearly states that the Kingdom of heaven is like the treasure hidden in the field; when we find it, and if we want it, we must be willing to go and sell all that we have in order to purchase it. It is like the pearl of great price that the merchant will sell all his goods to buy it. It is so important that a person should pluck out his eye, cut off his hand which causes him to lose it.
Thus to follow Jesus is the most important and costly thing in life. If we save our life, we will lose it. But if we are willing to lose it for Jesus’ sake, we will save it for eternal life (Mtt 16:25). We cannot just randomly do a few good things or a few religious devotions here and there and expecting to be called Jesus’ disciples. A doctor or a nurse is someone who takes care of his or her patients in the hospitals. A teacher is someone who teaches students in school. A coach is someone who trains students in the field. A bus driver is someone who drives bus to transport his passengers from one location to another. A disciple of Jesus is someone who follows Jesus’ way of life. It is a lifestyle that we are choosing to live. To choose to be a disciple of Jesus, we must have a plan. And we must prepare to execute our plan faithfully till the end.
One day a court jester said something so foolish that the king, handing him a staff, said to him, “Take this and keep it until you find a bigger fool than yourself.”
Some years later the king was very ill and lay on his deathbed. The king, addressing those gathered around his bed, said, “I am about to leave you. I am going on a very long journey, and I shall not return to this place; so I have called you to say goodbye.”
Then the jester stepped forward and addressed the king, saying, “Your majesty, may I ask you a question? When you journeyed abroad visiting your people, staying with your nobles, or paying diplomatic visits to other kings, your heralds and servants always went before you making preparations for you. May I ask what preparations your majesty has made for this journey you are about to take?”
“Alas,” he said, “I have made no preparations.”
“Then,” said the jester, “Take this staff with you, for now I have found a bigger fool than myself.”
(Paul J. Wharton, Stories and Parables for Preachers and Teachers. "Preparing for Death" p. 67).