To live the Gospel is to be identified totally with Jesus. Today's passage is preceded by three verses which are not read in today's Gospel: "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. It is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother. One's enemies will be those of his own household."
The Messiah was expected to bring "peace" but Jesus' words deflate any hope for a cheap or superficial peace. No allegiance can be allowed to push aside the Gospel and the Jesus it proclaims. The commitment to the Gospel is not one of blind fanaticism, but the discovery of life itself. And we are told right up front that it will be no easy task.
You and I are asked to be Christ's disciples today. To walk in the footsteps of the Master means to put aside self, willingly, generously, and with absolute trust. It's unlikely that we will lose our lives for the Gospel. Nor does it seem likely that we will be asked to give up all of our physical possessions to follow. Yet, being a follower of Christ today is just as challenging if we take up the full mantle of its meaning. It means giving without measuring the cost. It means putting our hands to the plow and not looking back. It means putting on Christ, allowing him to live in us and through us. It means taking up our own cross, absolutely certain that with Him we shall inherit the fullness of life and happiness forever.
Our instinct for survival fights fiercely against any threat to our identity and our existence. All of the forces of the modern world, of science and technology, all of the sophisticated developments in the field of psychology combine to teach us to love self, to cultivate a strong self-image and to overcome anything that would diminish the quality of our lives. And yet, Jesus seems to be saying that when we choose to become his followers, we must act immediately. We must choose to give up our own identity and, in some sense, even our own life. This is the only way we can really discover our true selves.
And understanding this is the only way that we can really become a sacred presence to others. This sacredness might be masked by the weakness, the half-faith, the fears and doubts that Jesus' first disciples carried with them. But even a cup of water to one of these "little ones" will not go unrewarded.
A cup of cold water is a little thing, but it can transform the world if we make use of it for the love of God and of our neighbor. A cup of cold water is nothing. But faith can transform it into a treasure of grace and strength which even allows mountains to be moved.
The message of Jesus pulls no punches. Anyone who lives the Gospel message with integrity will experience both joy and pain. There is an urgency in Jesus' words. A gift has been offered to us, the invitation to follow has been made, the instructions have been given.
How do we live this message and make it real?