As they traveled to Jerusalem for the last time Jesus cautioned his disciples that they, like himself, would have to face suffering and death.  There is a section in Luke’s gospel (9: 57-62) which provides concrete examples of what is expected of a disciple, of the radical demands Jesus makes of anyone who wants to be his follower.  It tells of three would-be followers and of Jesus’ response to them.

A paraphrase of Jesus’ response to the first volunteer would be: “I am totally dependent on the hospitality of others. Are you willing to be?”  To the second prospective disciple Jesus effectively says: “Loyalty to me, following me, takes precedence over family.” His response to the third reinforces that same idea.  These are radical demands.  They speak of giving priority to something else over the best of human relationships.

It seems what Jesus asks of anyone who truly wants to be his follower is total dedication.  But what does total dedication mean.  Surely it does not mean exclusivity.  Following Jesus certainly does not exclude relationships with others.  The second of  the  great commandments makes that clear.  We are asked how can we love God  whom we do not see, if we do not love our neighbor whom we do see.  Ghandi is quoted as saying: “If you cannot see God in the next person you meet, you probably  will never see him.”

The question seems to be one of setting priorities.  Nothing is to take priority over our relationship with Christ.  That’s the challenge of discipleship that Jesus offers; the challenge to get our priorities straight and to live accordingly.

At the end of that gospel passage in Luke Jesus is quoted as saying: “Whoever puts his hand to the plow and keeps looking back is unfit for the kingdom of God.”

Those words might well be understood as an exhortation to live in the present. As we grow older the tendency to look back grows stronger.  We may find ourselves saying:

“I wish had done this or that.  I wish I had avoided this or that.”  Psychologically. We can live in the past.  The second worst thing about living in the past is that it is useless.   We cannot change the past.  The worst thing about living in the past is that it may well be paralyzing, ¬even destructive.

Our challenge is to live in the present, looking each day for opportunities to follow Jesus more closely.