Do you want to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? Jesus comments in today’s Gospel are all about discipleship.
“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.” And,
“… anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessionscannot be my disciple.”
Family relationships and possessions must be subordinated to the following of Jesus. The idea is that priority in the lives of disciples of Jesus, of Christians, must go to the claims of Christ. All other considerations are secondary, even those of family.
This brings us to the need for constant self-examination. What things or actions in your life have become more important than Christ? If you can’t honestly identify any obstacles between you and Jesus, then you might need to go deeper in your prayer and spiritual assessment until you are certain you are free to love God. Most of us are prisoners of one thing or another. This is why it is critical for us to be in the habit of honest self-examination and Confession. This is the reason why a careful review of the Seven Deadly Sins is so important to us. The Seven Deadly Sins include: Pride, Gluttony, Greed, Lust, Sloth or Laziness, Envy and Anger.
Who wants to go to heaven? That should be our primary project in this life. Have you calculated what you must do to be ready for Salvation? You can’t achieve your own salvation. Only God can Save you. However, you can help prepare yourself, or block your salvation. Have you identified those things for which you need Jesus’ help? Jesus gives us a good way to think about this, when he taught about eternal life and discipleship as a project,
“Which of you wishing to construct a tower
does not first sit down and calculate the cost
to see if there is enough for its completion?
Otherwise, after laying the foundation
and finding himself unable to finish the work
the onlookers should laugh at him and say,
‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’”
One of the things we need to take into consideration as we plan to construct our own lives, is to be free of serious sin. Deadly sin can blind us, and keep us from seeing whether we have any serious obstacles to our salvation.
The deadly sin of Gluttony is a frequent obstacle to spiritual clarity, and spiritual maturity. This sin can make us blind.
Let’s recall that God gave each of us our natural appetites. We need to eat and drink to survive. There is no sin in our hunger and thirst. Jesus ate and drank. On the Cross Jesus said, “I thirst.” Jesus experienced temptation when he was,
“… was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry.
The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.’
Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”
Jesus was totally human. He needed to eat and drink. Jesus knew the difference between what we need and what we desire. As we journey in faith, we learn there is really very little we really need. However, there is a lot that we desire.
Need. Desire. Need. Desire. We confuse them all the time. How do we know the difference? We need to grow in self-awareness. This is one of the fruits of the ancient Christian tradition of fasting and self-discipline.
Self-discipline is a lesson we all learn as we grow and mature. Self-discipline involves gaining control over our desires and our bodily needs. Self-discipline is the key to “potty training”. Parents work for years to get us to the point where we can fully control ourselves and be responsible for our own natural bodily functions. Appetite also needs that self-discipline. It is our unredeemed self that says, “I want what I want when I want it.” Gluttony occurs when desire wins over necessity.
Gluttony happens when we lack the will and the habit for self-control. With gluttony we become prisoners of our appetites.
Gluttony can lead to addictions, even to food and drink. What is alcoholism if not gluttony out of control? What is most obesity if it is not gluttony out of control? Gluttony is about excess in our desires. With gluttony we lose our God-given freedom and we become slaves to our appetites. Gluttony overpowers our love of God with an excessive, destructive love of self. Gluttony kills our virtue of generosity toward others. Gluttons cannot be truly generous. Gluttons are blind, selfish prisoners of their own desires.
How do we control and counter the deadly sin of gluttony? The solution to gluttony is the virtue of Temperance. Temperance is one of the four Cardinal virtues. It is the virtue that controls the yearning for pleasures and delights that most powerfully attract the human heart, and helps preserve our human freedom. There are three virtues that are part of Temperance: Abstinence, Chastity and Modesty. Abstinence is the virtue we use to control our desire for and consumption of food and drink. It is natural to have human passions and appetites. It is also human, and mature, to learn how to control these passions, and distinguish between need and desire.
We have almost forgotten how to teach Fasting and Abstinence. These are just as important to our salvation as ever. On Ash Wednesday, throughout Lent and on Good Friday, the Church still calls us to Fast and Abstinence. These are very important abilities. If you note that fasting and abstinence are hard for you, then that is a clear indication about how much you need to practice them. Self-denial is an essential part of our journey toward Eternal Salvation, as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel is about self-examination, self-denial, anticipation and preparation for discipleship and eternal salvation. He is teaching us to examine obstacles to our salvation. Imagine if we were to sit down to examine our chances of eternal salvation and find ourselves saying, “I don’t think I want to go to heaven if there is no McDonalds there.” Or saying, “Heaven might be a nice place, but I need to have my beer and wine. If I can’t have those, I don’t want to go to heaven.” I have heard people say this about their pets. Jesus teaches us to evaluate our priorities and life resources by saying,
“… what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops?
But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms.
In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”
Take a good look. Sit down and decide for yourself whether you can persevere in faith to your salvation. If you can see that you are not free to live as children of God, shouldn’t you take your self-denial more seriously?