2010-09-12 - Our Lord tells us . . .
As things pick up in September after the pleasantly languid summer weeks, we start a new season which is an annual allegory of the start of all new beginnings. Our Lord tells us that we must not embark upon the Christian life without considering the cost. He uses the image of constructing the tower and another image of going into battle (Luke 14: 28, 31). He was a “teknon,” which actually can mean not only a carpenter, but a designer, architect, stonemason, and general construction engineer. So in his human nature he knew about calculating the cost of a project. In his tormented land, he also knew about battles. When I preach at Mass, I am aware of the West Point men who serve at the altar. They know more about military strategy than I do. I am honored to be chaplain of the West Point Society, but that only makes me expert at attending dinners. I defer to the soldiers in matters of war. But having been ordained, I know what it is to count the cost of a commitment. The young priest makes costly promises to his bishop. A bride and groom make lifelong promises to each other. In each instance, a cost is exacted: a lifetime of service and love. But only those who have weathered the years know both how expensive the cost is, and how wonderful the rewards.
In many ways, Pope Benedict XVI is reminding our demoralized culture of the cost of discipleship. The images of the saints in our church remind us of the cost as they look at us. Daily, the defamers and mockers of the Church remind us by their rationalizations how facile it is to find excuses for not paying that cost. On August 28, Bishop John Yang Shudao of Fuzhou died after more than 28 years in Chinese Communist prisons. Our national media largely ignored that, because our culture is not inclined to pay the price that Christ exacts for eternal happiness, and it is perplexed by those who do. People who take Jesus seriously are not considered serious by those who want lives cheaply bought. Bill Millin died just a few days before Bishop Shudao. On June 6, 1944, he led the commandos of Britain’s First Special Service Brigade on Sword Beach in the Normandy invasion, playing the bagpipes. On that day, 4,400 men were killed. At a gathering years later, one of the German soldiers told him that they did not shoot him because they thought he was crazy. There are those who would say the same of the saints.
Jesus never told his Apostles what their dental plan would be, or where they would retire. He simply said, “Follow me.” It was the start of a costly investment of their lives, costly in the extreme, but with returns beyond anything this world can offer.