Our Gospel today, upon first reading may not appear to be related or confusing in the analogies that Jesus is making. Jesus first begins by stating that to be a disciple of his, there is a need to, first hate “father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life,” and then be willing to “carry his own cross” (cf Lk 14:26-27). Then Jesus begins to talk about the smart builder calculating the cost of materials and labor to be sure he has enough to build the tower to be sure he has all he needs otherwise he will not complete what he set out to do. In the same way, Jesus talks about a king preparing for battle. If his goal is for success, he needs to be confident he has enough soldiers to win, if not, he will need to send an emissary to make peace.
Each of these four points is interconnected if we understand what Jesus is conveying regarding discipleship with him and that is to look toward what is the fundamental option or the end goal of having a relationship and discipleship with Jesus. The goal or success of discipleship with Jesus is relationship with God in this lifetime and for eternity in the next, and to lead others to experience the same.
To attain this goal then, God must be first in our lives before all else, even the closest of family members and most intimate of friends. For if we truly want to be close to family and friends and to see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to know the Father. As we come to know and experience God, we will be transformed by the infinite power of his love.
Having a relationship with God is not just knowing about him, but knowing him intimately and that means we have to change. We become less self-focused and self-centered as we begin to experience, in relationship with God, his love. As we do so we begin to see our sins, how short we fall from sharing the love of God in our human relationships and the way we treat one another. With humility, contrition, and confession we begin to heal and change into his loving sons and daughters. In so doing, our natural human relationships improve and we grow closer and more mature because the love of God is more present in our lives. We become more loving, forgiving, patient, present, and other-centered as we allow Jesus to love others through us.
JoAnn loved to plan. She enjoyed planning things out before we would do any project no matter how small. I tended to dive in without thinking matters through necessarily to the desired end. JoAnn helped me to slow down and think before I lept. I helped her to be more open to preparing instead of holding too tightly to the desired plan. When things did not always go according to the plan, we were able to adjust better and be more flexible because we were committed to each other.
Although not always as patient with each other as we wanted to be, our commitment and love for God, helped us to grow in our love for each other, and over the years we grew in our patience in working together, we learned from each other, and knew we were always better together despite sometimes having different ways of approaching certain projects or challenges. All of our relationships will grow and mature if we lean on God first and open our hearts and minds to allowing his love to transform us and flow out to each other!