The Cost of Discipleship
I am sure that many of you have heard of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran theologian who wrote a series of reflections on the Sermon on the Mount entitled, The Cost of Discipleship. In his reflections Bonhoeffer maintained that discipleship requires that we make a fundamental decision to follow Jesus and to accept the consequences of that decision.
His own religious convictions led him to stand up to the tyranny of Nazi Germany and to participate in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. The plot was uncovered, Bonhoeffer was apprehended, and the ultimate “cost” of discipleship was exacted of him: he was hanged by the Nazis on April 9, 1945.
While discipleship might force some people to decide between life and death, few of us will be asked to pay that ultimate price. But for us here in our coastal and hinterland parish I think it is important that we never underestimate a person’s ability to respond to the invitation to discipleship. And never, never underestimate the potential cost of discipleship.
If today’s Gospel is any guide to go by, discipleship involves pretty clear, unhesitating, unambiguous and complete commitment from anyone who takes seriously this invitation.
There can be no “but first . . . , no “in a minute”, no “on second thought.”
Jesus’ Gospel is not a collection of pious words we commit to memory, but a perspective and attitude by which we live our lives. We cannot be disciples by being mere spectators of God’s presence; possessing a baptismal certificate alone does not mark us as disciples of the Risen One.
This weekend, authentic discipleship calls each one of us to become involved in the great drama of life that occupies our hours and days. Discipleship takes place not somewhere else but precisely in our homes, classrooms, office spaces and between friends. It is there that the hard work of making the reign of God a reality is lived out and experienced. However young or old we are, discipleship means having the courage to make the sometimes tough choices — regardless of the cost, regardless of the difficulty, regardless of the sacrifice.
May God’s grace accompany our discipleship as we live this coming week.