What Are You at the Core?

Wis 9:13-18 / Phlm 9-10. 12-17 / Lk 14:25-33

A real estate agent was showing a well-dressed dowager through a luxury condo on the beach. “What’s that over there?” she asked, pointing to a field dotted with low mounds.

“A Navy ammunition dump,” replied the agent.

“Are there nuclear bombs in there?” she asked nervously.

“YES, there are,” he said.

“Oh, dear!” sighed the woman. “I did so like this view, but perhaps we’d better look at something on the other side of the building.”

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How very human: Hoping a few yards’ move will do the work of many miles.

We’ve all been fascinated by that old story about Manhattan Island being bought for $29 worth of trinkets and beads. And some of us have fantasized about winning millions with a $2 lottery ticket. But in the real world, we know — or at least we say we know — that life isn’t bought on the cheap. A life that is a life costs a lot.

That’s what Jesus is telling us in Sunday’s Gospel. “Doing anything valuable or important,” he says, “whether it’s building a great tower or confronting a powerful enemy, costs a lot. And the person who doesn’t face up to that is doomed to failure.”

How perfectly obvious. Yet, when it comes to so many of the really important things in our lives — nurturing our children, keeping our marriages whole and growing, making our community strong and healthy, feeding our minds, feeding our souls — we try, so often, to do it on the cheap. For awhile it may work, but eventually our carelessness catches up with us, things start to fall apart, and we’re surprised and wonder why.

At the center of every HEALTHY human being is a solid core of unequivocal commitments: Things which must be done, and other things which must never be done. And inside each of those commitments is the will and the determination to be true to them, whatever the cost. That’s what the center of a healthy human being looks like. So Jesus’ question to us is: What does our core look like? Is it strong, clear, and true? Or is it mush, a moving target with no fixed anchor? The answer is probably a bit of both.

Jesus is inviting us to reach beyond that, to get our commitments straight and clear, and to build inside us the will to be faithful and true, whatever the cost. This is the only way of building the kind of lives that God wants for us, lives that are big, full, and rich in the things that count — rich in the only things we can carry with us into eternity.

Building lives like that does cost a lot. But we’re not building alone, and we don’t have to finish our great work all in one day. At each step, the Lord will give us both the tools we need and the strength to use them. That is God’s promise, and he always keeps his word!