“This being the opening of football season, I’ll tell a story that a friend of mine, another priest, told me. There was a fella out at Chiefs Stadium one day and he was watching the game, but he was up in the nose bleed area and he had his binoculars there, so he was watching with his binoculars and he was panning the fans and he noticed there in the club area that there was an empty seat next to this man. He kept watching and saw nobody was coming to sit in that seat, so halftime after the ushers were not paying that close attention he goes over there and he gets in the club area and he goes down and he says to the man, ‘I noticed there’s an empty seat here, can I sit in this seat?’ And the man said, ‘Well yeah, that’s my wife’s seat, but you can sit in it. You know my wife and I are wonderful fans. We’ve had these seats for thirty years and we have not missed a football game in thirty years and we have not missed a game in thirty years because we are such tremendous fans of the Chiefs.’ And the man said, ‘Well where is your wife today?’ He said, ‘Oh she died.’ And he says, ‘Oh that’s terrible, that’s terrible that she died and I’m so sorry to hear that, but you would think you would have asked one of your relatives or friends to come and take her seat today.’ And he said, ‘Yeah they couldn’t do it, they’re all at the funeral.’
That’s radical dedication to the Chiefs. Jesus in the Gospel today is talking about radical discipleship which is something even much greater than that dedication to our football teams. Jesus makes some very challenging statements today. He said, ‘You can’t be my disciple unless you hate your mother, your father, hate your wife and your children.’ And you think wait a minute Jesus! How can you really mean this? And I believe what Jesus is really saying is that we can’t be mediocre disciples. There needs to be a radical discipleship in our life and radical means not extremism, but it means being rooted fundamentally in faith in God. That’s what it’s about and it’s about living that faith in God in a faithful radical way and that’s the challenge that Jesus is saying. He’s really not telling us that we need to hate our relatives and friends. That’s Semitic hyperbole in order to get the point across, but what he’s saying is that we must really be fully dedicated to God above all else. Jesus never enjoined hate because his commandment is out of love, love of neighbor as well as love of God and so Jesus is not telling us it’s about hate, but rather it truly is about love and we are called to be so radically dedicated to truth and to love to the truth that is revealed by God about our lives and our relationship with him and the meaning and the purpose of our life. We’re called to live that truth with a radical sense of commitment and to live that life of love that life of love that is truly self-giving and yet we know that both truth and love tend to be undermined in our own culture, society just because of our fallen human nature. We know that truth really so often today has been turned into relativism, whatever I believe it’s whatever I think it’s all just very relative to me and if I don’t believe it then it doesn’t exist which really undermines that there is an objective truth revealed in Christ Jesus about our lives and our purpose and our relationship with God and with others and the real meaning in the ultimate destiny of our life that those things are so much just dismissed these days for whatever I happen to believe.
I happened to see a little sign, it was on a young woman’s purse, it said, ‘Think less, enjoy more.’ I thought that was an interesting statement. Think less, enjoy more and maybe that’s part of the culture that we have. It’s kind of an anti-thought culture, don’t think just enjoy and so often love is reduced to just enjoying to just self-fulfillment, just the moment rather than self-giving, self-sacrificing and that’s the reason why Jesus talks about picking up my cross and following after him because we all know that if we’re faithful to truth, if we’re faithful to self-giving love, it will be difficult. It will be challenging. There’s times that we have to transcend our own personal wants and desires and needs out of love, out of self-giving to others and Jesus says that is not an easy trip, that’s not an easy journey and so he asks us to stop and evaluate, ‘Do I have what it takes to be a disciple of Jesus?’ And the fact of the matter is, none of us does, but God’s grace is sufficient for us and that’s the crucial thing. Am I truly open to God’s grace day in and day out to truly live as a follower of Jesus to follow that truth, to live that love in a self-giving way.
Another way that this is expressed sometimes is ‘I’m third.’ God first, family and others second, and I’m third. That’s a pretty good philosophy of life. That’s a good approach to our Christian discipleship to recognize truly, I am called to love, love God above all things, love my neighbor and then love myself that I may truly be loving of others. God first, others second, me third.”