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The cost of discipleship

The sufferings and death of Jesus for the sake of love were the price of His resurrection. And so will it be for each one of us, if we want to be His true and loving disciples. As the spiritual author W. Maestri puts it so well: “Jesus does not want those who follow Him to be fooled into believing that discipleship is without its costs. His disciples must be ready for a baptism of fire which causes one to make a fundamental choice. One will either follow Jesus and be part of the reign of God, or one will follow worldly powers and principalities” (Grace upon Grace, p. 295). This applies to all human relationships.

Let me single out a very inspiring example. Elen and Totoy (not their real names) are a young, premarital couple who are very much in love with each other. A time came when Totoy finally asked Elen to have premarital sex as an expression of their love for each other. Elen strongly refused, for she is convinced that it is morally wrong. On the other hand, Totoy believed that it would make their love relationship even stronger. They had a long dialogue regarding the matter, and were not able to solve the problem. It was Totoy who finally broke off from the relationship. Both were deeply broken-hearted. Later on, inspired by his close friends, Totoy went through a one-on-one spiritual retreat for a weekend. It was there that his mind and heart were touched by the Lord, and his moral value system changed. His love for Elen became even deeper, and he did not waste time in reconciling with her. They now share the same value system and are planning to get married within a year.

Allow me to move on to a very inspiring but deeply sad event. This is the recent murder of our 24-year-old Ateneo High School math teacher, Emmanuel Jose Pavia. On his way home last Monday night, July 18, he was shot dead by an unidentified man. Two possible reasons were suspected to have caused the tragedy, as reported by the PDI. One: his strong anti-illegal drugs advocacy. Second: He was helping someone who was being robbed when he was shot. For one or the other or both, he was no less than a hero, a loving and fearless disciple of Christ. The high school classes were suspended, and a Holy Mass was offered for him at the covered courts, attended by the faculty, students, friends, and of course his beloved, bereaved family. He was such an inspiration to so many of his students. Beside his coffin was a dedication wall, and it was full of love and praise expressed to him. Likewise, so many expressions of love and admiration appeared on twitter. A few of all these are worth quoting.

“He was very close and inspirational to the boys.” “He was a favorite of a lot of kids even if his subject was math.” “It was natural for him to be concerned for other people.” “He was the most reliable person I know. The most helpful. The kind of friend anyone would love having.”

For as long as we follow faithfully the ways of our loving Jesus, there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of. The sufferings and crucifixion of Jesus are the price of His resurrection. And so must it be for us, if we decide to be really His disciples, His brothers and sisters, his unconditional lovers, as He is to us.

In relation to all this, tomorrow is the Feast of the Assumption of our Blessed Mother Mary. Our Missal tells us that in 1950, Pope Pius XII solemnly defined the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary: at the end of her earthly life, she was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory. This is how much she was loved by her son Jesus. He saved her, his ever-loving mother, from the decay and corruption of the grave. She deserved this by the quality of her life.

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But before this, as the human mother of Jesus, she also embraced the cost of discipleship, like the rest of us human beings. She thus said to the angel who told her that as a virgin, she was going to be a mother: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done according to your word” (Lk. 1:38).

In all humility and love, the first part of which I now quote is her canticle:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;

my spirit rejoices in God my savior.

For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;

behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.

The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name…. (vv. 46-49)

All throughout Jesus’ growing up years, all the way to His crucifixion and death, Mary was a most dedicated mother as well as her son’s most faithful disciple. Remember her caring intercession at Cana? This and more convinces us that she is our greatest and most loving intercessor to her Son. She mediates for all of us, her fellow human beings, from her compassionate heart and concern for our salvation. She is not only the mother of Jesus, but she is our mother as well!  Amen.

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