In the Gospel we see that Jesus didn’t hide the reality from his disciples. He pointed out the difficulties, the hardships, and the sacrifices that would be required of those who would follow him. He told them in no uncertain terms that it wouldn’t be easy. So they could not complain later on, “Oh, we never thought it was going to be like this.”
It’s possible to be a follower of Christ without being a disciple. One might just be a camp-follower rather than a soldier of the King. One might not be pulling one’s weight, or playing one’s part. One might just be a hanger-on in a great work. One might be a talker rather than a doer.
Once someone approached a famous professor about a young man and asked, “So and so tells me that he was one of your students. Is that correct?” To which the professor replied, “That man did indeed attend my lectures, but believe me he was never a real student of mine.”
It is one of the supreme handicaps of the Church that in it there are many people who follow Christ at a safe distance, but very few real disciples, that is, people who actually do what he said.
Let’s face it. It is not easy to be a disciple of Christ. Discipleship has some practical demands that one cannot escape under pain of betraying the Gospel. Yet we have many comfortable church-goers who gave little heed to the misery of the needy and the groaning of the poor. Still today the Christian is called to renounce many things that are taken for granted by others.
Some followers melt away as soon as a demand is made on them. Others are destroyed by opposition and criticism.
Jesus said in following him there is a place for common sense, for prudence, and for counting up the cost. We mustn’t take on more than we are capable of. Of course, we won’t know in advance what we are capable of. We may underestimate or overestimate our-selves. We may need a challenge to bring the best out of us.
We can draw encouragement from the example of the apostles. The Gospels show that they struggled at every point to follow Jesus. Yet he did not write them off.
By looking at them we discover our own inadequacies. The Gospel offers hope to Christians who fail. Repentance and a second chance are always possible. Jesus is generous with his grace to those who strive to answer his call.