'When it is all over you will not regret having suffered; rather you will regret having suffered so little, and suffered that little so badly.'
--St. Sebastian Valfre
Gospel text (Mt 8,18-22):
When Jesus saw a crowd around him,
he gave orders to cross to the other shore.
A scribe approached and said to him,
“Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”
Another of his disciples said to him,
“Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”
But Jesus answered him, “Follow me,
and let the dead bury their dead.”
This reading speaks to the reality of following Jesus. The charism in the life and words of Jesus was very attractive to those in the crowd who listened carefully to his words and teaching. However, Jesus knows that those who follow him will not lead an idyllic life. And so he warns the scribe and the disciple of the realities of a life of following him. First of all Jesus warns them that those who follow him will lead a life of hardship. Like Jesus, they will travel about hither and yon as itinerant preachers. They will not lead a settled life, but rather a difficult and unsettled one. Their days will not follow a fixed schedule but rather will be determined by the needs of the people among whom they find themselves. They will go wherever they can attract a crowd. Their goal will be to preach and to teach. Secondly, Jesus wants these men to know that there is danger as well as hardship in a life of following him. In the land of Israel there was the danger of the opposition to Jesus and his followers of the chief priests and the leaders of the people. Elsewhere there was the danger of persecution throughout the Roman Empire. The deaths by martyrdom of the apostles and many other disciples of Jesus testify to the reality of this danger. The life of a disciple was a dangerous and difficult one.
So we may well ask: "What made the disciples choose a life like this?" The answer, of course, is that the disciples chose this difficult life because of their devotion to Jesus. The scribe and the disciple that we hear about today were like all the other followers of Jesus throughout the last 2000 years. They had learned well his teachings and willingly chose to follow him. They chose a life of hardship and danger here on earth in the firm belief that such a life would merit them an eternal reward in heaven. Their desire to follow Jesus everywhere provides us a wonderful example. Like them, we can become followers of Jesus too.
It simply is a choice!