Donna Rougeux, ARCWP, led the Upper Room Community’s liturgy withthe theme: The cost of discipleship. Donna’s homily reflection is printed below the readings.
1st Reading: A letter to her niece from Maryknoll Sister Ita Ford, killed in El Salvador on December 2, 1980:
This is a terrible time in El Salvador for youth. A lot of idealism and commitment is getting snuffed out here now.
The reasons why so many people are being killed are quite complicated yet there are some clear simple strands. One is that many people have found a meaning to life, to sacrifice, to struggle and even to death! And whether their life spans sixteen years or sixty or ninety, for them their life has had a purpose. In many ways, they are fortunate people.
Brooklyn is not passing through the drama of El Salvador, but some things hold true wherever one is and at whatever age. What I am saying is I hope you come to find that which gives life a deep meaning for you. Something worth living for, maybe even worth dying for, something that energizes you, enthuses you, enables you to keep moving ahead.
I can’t tell you what it might be. That’s for you to find, to choose to love. I just encourage to you to start looking and support you in the search.
These are the inspired words of Ita Ford and the community responds by saying: “ Amen.”
Many of the disciple remarked, “We cannot put up with this kind of talk! How can anyone take it seriously?” Jesus was fully aware that the disciples were murmuring in protest at what he had said. “Is this a stumbling block for you?” He asked them.
What then, if you were to see the Chosen One ascend to where the Chosen One came from? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh in itself is useless. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. Yet among you there are some who do not believe.
Jesus knew from the start, of course, the ones who would refuse to believe and the one who would betray him. He went on to say:
“This is why I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by our God.”
From this time on, many of the disciples broke away and would not remain in the company of Jesus. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Are you going to leave me, too?”
Simon Peter answered, “Rabbi where would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe; we are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
These are the inspired words from the gospel of John and the community responds by saying: Amen.
The Cost of Discipleship - Homily Reflection by Donna Rougeux
The gospel reading is a continuation of the story of the last several weeks and begins with the disciples response to Jesus’ I Am statement. Jesus says I am the bread of life . Jesus is pictured saying, “Everyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in and me and I live in them. Whoever eats this kind of bread will liver forever.” Jesus is pictured as sharing who he is and many of the disciples are struggling with this man who is asking them to join with him in a different kind of life. It is a life that puts the teachings of Jesus into action in a way that embodies a life giving way of being in the world. This is in contrast to a life destroying way of being in the world. Jesus is raising the bar from being the one who feeds the five thousand and heals the sick to saying, “do you want to join me in living a new kind of life that requires a commitment to an awakened way of being that does not accept the status quo? Are you willing to live a life worth dying for?”
Many disciples at this point start struggling and have trouble with the truth about who Jesus is and the cost of what he is asking them to do. It is no more about following Jesus who is doing these amazing things it is a call on their lives to put words of life into action. Jesus is calling them to live a life worth dying for.
As Beth and I were looking at this reading a popular song came to mind that illustrates the disciples response to Jesus’ call of a more costly and awakened way of living in the world. Here is part of the song that will probably get stuck in your head today ( Play the beginning of The Clash- Should I Stay or Should I Go)
The gospel reading says “From this time on, many of the disciples broke away and would not remain in the company of Jesus. Jesus said to the Twelve,’Are you going to leave me, too?’”
Our first reading today is a letter written by Ita Ford. She is one of the four “church ladies” who were beaten, raped and killed in El Salvador by the military. Ita was working with the poor and war refugees. Ita was a contemporary disciple of Jesus who answered Jesus’ question with a no, I will stay and accept the cost of discipleship. Ita lived her life serving the poor and marginalized putting flesh to the words of life that Jesus gave us.
Discipleship has a cost and puts us in a vulnerable position because we live in a world that continues to reject the teachings of Jesus. If we say yes to discipleship we will be rejected, marginalized and required to go against the status quo of the world. So why do we accept Jesus’ call to discipleship? I think Ita’s letter says it well. “Brooklyn (or Albany) is not passing through the drama of El Salvador, but some things hold true wherever one is and at whatever age. What I am saying is I hope you come to find that which gives life a deep meaning for you. Something worth living for, maybe even worth dying for, something that energizes you, enthuses you, enables you to keep moving ahead.” This kind of living that Ita speaks of is a life that Jesus knew and lived.
Michael Morwood suggests that the cost of discipleship is paying the price for doing what is right and it is a way of living that Jesus modeled. Our communion song today, The impossible Dream puts word to what a life of discipleship looks like in a world that rejects love and peace. Most of us here may remember the words: “To dream the impossible dream, to fight the unbeatable foe, to bear the unbearable sorrow, to run where the brave dare not go…And I know if I’ll only be true to this glorious quest,
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm when I’m laid to my rest. And the world will be better for this.”
So how do you answer Jesus’ question in your own life today? “Are you going to leave me, too?” Should I stay or should I go?