Lots of people, a gathering crowd, came around Jesus.  “Wait a minute,” he says.  “Do you see what’s at stake?”  Here he is on a life and death journey, toward Jerusalem.  So he presses his followers, to help them sort it out, how deep is their trust?  What do they hold on to?   Finally we have to sort out our motivation.  What kind of follower am I?

Back in graduate school,  I was a follower of a certain kind, able to attend the best classes, to look good and do good.  But then you see there’s more to it, if you’re going to be a disciple, to confess all you don’t know, to look for a way to the goal even though it would involve setting aside your attachments to ease and image and to what everybody else is doing.

I think that’s what Jesus is going for here, to help the casual follower sift through to the essentials and become a disciple.  It’s then no longer just being good, or getting along to satisfy expectations. There’s got to be something else.  It leads to this crucial prayer, looking as directly as we can toward the one we are starting to love.  “I’m not getting it.  I’m looking for more.  I’m looking for You.”  That’s where it is.  The rest falls away.  You step into a new relationship.  Now everything he says becomes more important, involving, more wild and challenging and true.  It’s time to step up.

—Fr. Richard Bollman, S.J., a Jesuit of the Chicago-Detroit province, has  been the long-time pastor at St. Robert Bellarmine Chapel of Xavier University, Cincinnati.  He now works with Xavier’s Center for Mission and Identity.