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Recently I was once more watching the film ‘Braveheart’ where William Wallace, played by Mel Gibson, stands in front of a fearful Scottish army and encourages them into battle by shouting: “You came to fight as free men.  What will you do without freedom?  They may take away our lives but they can never take – our freedom!”  Freedom stands at the heart of Jesus’ words today as Jesus, following on from last week’s instructions that disciples should not be gripped with fear, lays out some essential conditions for being a follower of the Good News, a disciple.  He tells his audience that being free from worldly ties is going to be an essential requirement: “anyone who prefers father or mother, son or daughter to me is not worthy of me.”  Jesus is not telling people to forget about their families – his own family was key to his own life on earth – but rather saying that any attachment or any tie in this world can sometimes hamper us from a wholehearted following of the Good News message. 

 

 

 

In today’s Gospel Jesus actually lays out three further marks of a disciple.  As well as the necessity for a disciple to be free from worldly attachments, there are two further requirements.  A disciple should be a welcoming person and should be marked by generosity with both that welcoming spirit and generosity being a two –way street: disciples should be free to give to others generously but also willing to receive from others.  In this regard there is a key phrase in today’s Gospel: “anyone who welcomes you welcomes me and also the one who sent me.”  In others words, we should first of all be generous and welcoming because someone – God – has been generous to us and welcomed us into his love.  These three requirements are meant to make followers better disciples.  They are meant to bring disciples closer to Jesus for, if followers are able to see Jesus more clearly, they might then be able to love him more dearly and then follow him more nearly.

 

 

 

These requirements laid out in today’s Gospel reminded me of two concepts that St Ignatius talked about throughout his Spiritual Exercises: ‘freedom’ and ‘unordered attachments’.  Ignatius said that those who are following ‘The Way’ should essentially be FREE.  They should be free from all personal preferences and from society expectations of them.  Disciples ought to show no preference for riches or poverty, sickness or health.  They should be willing to serve Jesus in either set of circumstances of life.  In that case I have always felt that the vows made a couple on their wedding day are the vows a faithful disciple is called to make daily to God:  I will serve you, Lord, in better and in worse, in richer and in poorer, in sickness and in health.  Free for Jesus in whatever circumstances of life. 

 

 

 

Linked to Ignatius ideas about Freedom are those about ‘disordered attachments.’  At first glance you might think Ignatius is talking about attachments to property and wealth.  That is true – he calls on disciples to set aside attachments that keep a person from wholeheartedly following Jesus.  But there are other attachments too that need to be thrown off: physical habits that get in the way of God; and emotional habits – anger, fear, hyperactivity – that keep a person from God and prevent a person flourishing in the way that God desires. 

 

 

 

There is loads for you and for me to ponder in today’s Gospel.  Clearly you are here because you want to be a better follower, a better disciple within your community, in your family.  You are called to reflect today: am I generous?  Am I welcoming enough?  Am I free from physical habits and emotional attachments – my angers and resentments?  And am I free enough to serve the Lord in the better and worse circumstances of life, in richer and poorer moments, and through sickness and health.

 

 

 

We can only be true disciples if our eyes are on the Lord Jesus.

 

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