ColumnsNaming Grace

Calculating the cost

After running to greet me, 3-year-old Johnny heads straight to Mimi’s basket of blocks. Dumping wooden squares and rectangles on the floor, he builds a structure without calculating the number of blocks needed to complete his vision. Three-year-old children are incapable of such calculating, planning and implementing a project. Yet this Sunday’s Gospel warns the crowds to calculate the cost before following him. “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion?”

We sell Christianity short as we live our affluent lives, pretending that following Christ costs little to nothing. In his book, “The Cost of Discipleship,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer advises considering the true cost of discipleship: “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” Bonhoeffer then writes grace “is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.” It cost Bonhoeffer his life, just as it cost John the Baptist, Peter, Maximillian Kolbe, Edith Stein and all our Christian martyrs.

At a recent gathering of faith formation leaders, D. William Keimig, D. Min., spoke of the major barriers to discipleship. He stated the number one obstacle is, “Fear of how Christianity will change my life.” We fear Jesus will rattle our cage, change our lifestyle, root out our sins, and demand our allegiance in all things — no matter how countercultural. We may be asked to speak up for an unpopular cause, give away our prized possessions, reach out to the lost, commit to a vocation, be open to another child — to go where Christ calls us. We can belong to a church — for years or even a lifetime — without deliberating his demands, but we cannot live as a disciple and experience the sweet joy of grace until we have calculated the cost and followed him.

This past weekend, our son Joe made final vows to the Congregation of Holy Cross. He has taken seven years to calculate the cost of following Jesus through a religious vocation. He has chosen to “renounce his possessions” and vowed poverty, chastity and obedience. Rev. William Lies, C.S.C., spoke to the newly professed: “In the celibacy you profess, love with the freedom, openness and availability that can be recognized as a sign of the kingdom. In your poverty, seek to share the lot of the poor and to unite in their cause, trusting in the Lord as provider. And in your consecrated obedience, join with us, your brothers in community, and with the whole church in the search for God’s will. And as you profess these vows today, throw down your fears. Know that your lives, your actions, your love carry and reveal the presence of Christ.”

After lying prostrate, signifying death to self and life in Christ, Joe then received a cross — a reminder of the true cost of discipleship. The motto of this religious order is “Hail the Cross: Our Only Hope.” The same is true for each of us, whether professed, ordained, married or single — we must calculate the cost, throw down our fears and embrace the cross. Johnny enjoys building blocks, but we are to calculate the cost of building the kingdom of God. Now, that’s good news!

How will you help your children to understand the cost of discipleship?

What has following Jesus cost you?

Naming Grace in the Domestic Church reflects on Scripture through the lens of a parent/grandparent. To read more reflections or to connect with Mary Pedersen: