There is no such thing as easy discipleship, just ask the Christians in the Middle East. The most ancient of Christian Churches are facing not only persecution but also destruction. The Chalcedon Church in Iraq, the Maronite Church in Lebanon and Syria, Byzantine Church in Turkey, the Coptic Church in Egypt, these along with the Church of Rome, were all founded during the Apostolic period. These churches are part of the ancient history of Christianity and their continued existence should be the concern of all Christians throughout the world.

These Christian communities are willing to step out in faith and proclaim their belief in Jesus Christ even if they are risking death to do so. How many of us would be willing to do the same? That is the question the Scriptures for the Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time confronts us with today. The passion prediction Jesus shares with his disciples causes them to come face-to-face with the cost of discipleship. “Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” (Matthew 16:21-27) There is no such thing as easy discipleship, the cross of Jesus Christ reveals that to each of us. We have to accept the cost of discipleship.

We cannot run from the cross as Peter himself tried to do, nor can we fashion for ourselves what the mission of the Christ, the Messiah should be. “Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” Peter, like all faithful Jews of his time, expected the Messiah to be one who was like David, the great King of Israel. Like David, the Christ, would be the anointed one of Israel who would reestablish the kingdom. Jesus came to reestablish God’s kingdom, a kingdom that would transform the world. Peter by his resistance to Jesus’ passion prediction was getting in the way of his mission. Jesus responded to Peter by saying, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.”
So often we are an obstacle to Jesus Christ and God’s plan of salvation going forward because we want the easy way of discipleship and there is no such thing as easy discipleship, that is, if we want to be faithful disciples. Ask the Prophet Jeremiah. He accused God of duping him into prophetic ministry. Jeremiah was scorned, ridiculed, imprisoned and even threatened with death. “You duped me O Lord, and I let myself be duped.” (Jeremiah. 20:7-9) Again Jeremiah exhibits for us that there is no such thing as easy discipleship.

Just as Jeremiah could not hold back from offering his entire life as a prophet of God, St. Paul encourages the disciples to not take the easy way out but rather be faithful disciples by giving over their entire lives, body, heart and soul. “I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1-2) St. Paul was calling the Church of Rome to be transformed by offering themselves, body and soul, to Christ and to not let themselves be transformed by the world. That is the challenge of our age, to give our whole selves to God and we not only transform ourselves, we then transform the world around us to become the kingdom of God here and now in preparation for the glory of kingdom to come.

It is not a great leap from where we are today as a culture to find ourselves where our sisters and brothers in the churches of the Middle East and other parts of the world find themselves facing persecution. Just look at how the Church in America faces secularization and how that secularization is causing us to confront our own willingness to be faithful disciples or take the easy way out and choose easy discipleship. There is no such thing as easy discipleship, there is only faithful discipleship.

Prayer for Faithful Discipleship
Eternal Father,
Being a disciple requires great discipline and patience.
May the sacramental life of your church, The witness of saints and martyrs
And the preaching of her pastors. Renew us in our commitment
To daily take up our crosses. And follow your Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.