WelCom has invited a series of Gospel reflections – with a rural perspective – from Tom Gibson a retired dairy farmer who lives in Stratford and is a parishioner of the Immaculate Conception Parish.
The Demands of Revolution:
Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem and – as we see so often – great crowds are following for they know him to be a healer, a feeder, a consoler and a friend of the downtrodden. When Jesus stops, He shocks them with His statement. ‘If anyone comes to me without hating his father, mother, partner, children, brothers, sisters, yes and their own life too, they cannot be my disciple. Anyone who does not carry their cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.’ (Lk 14:26-27)
That paragraph on its own seems harsh. Hate in this context means ‘prefer less’. However, Jesus demands from His followers, a complete commitment to their way of life. Jesus is on His way to Calvary, knowing when the Shepherd is struck down the flock scatters. This is not some great political rally; this is Christianity in its embryonic state. Jesus does not look for intellectuals, He does not need advice; He wants assistants, people to learn and grow in faith, a faith to commit to serving Him until martyrdom brings them eternal reward. What a big ask! He turns their reason to follow Him around. He does not need followers; He needs missionaries. For explanation Jesus uses the parable of someone setting out to build a tower. Anyone who does not plan before acting will draw ridicule from onlookers when the plan fails to come to fruition. Or a king preparing battle against another king before realising he has insufficient resources before the battle commences, will humbly seek a settlement?
Dairy farming today becomes a parable in 2016. Success demands improvement, improvements demand investment. Take these two parables in Luke’s gospel (Lk 14:28-32) setting out the necessity of reflection before action. We learn of the fate of those unable to see undertakings through to their finality. Likewise, the dramatic turnaround in dairy returns in recent years requires a more thoughtful approach from the folk on the land. No longer can New Zealand dairy farmers claim to be the world’s lowest-cost producers. The scale of the international market-place precludes them from reversing this situation. There is a danger that optimistic farmers may mark time, letting their ‘wait-and-see’ allegiance to their marketing arm become their downfall. Alternatively, they need to revolutionise their ideas, lest they become bankrupt paupers on the side of the old farm road.
Is Jesus promoting a revolution to change things? Does He want us to be conscious of the increasing rolls of Catholic schools while Mass attendance rolls diminish? We may follow Jesus enthusiastically yet we become more deeply involved in day-to-day lives relating to employment, family, sport and possessions? Does God still figure predominantly in our lives or has religion just become a ‘tag-on’ to ensure we continue to be known as Catholics by our friends? It would take a major upheaval in our lives of significant and difficult change for us to properly carry out the words of Christ when he says ‘none of you can be my disciples unless you give up all your possessions?’ (V33). It may well need a revolution.